Malaria multiple: bodies, practices, and public health knowledge
Luciane Machado Freitas de Souza
Paper short abstract:
Ribeirinhos are frequently afflicted by malarial infections. While malaria is characterized as a single disease, in real life, it is enacted in plural ways. Each way evokes one version of malaria; hence it is a multiple object defined through networks of people, techniques, and environment.
Paper long abstract:
Riverine populations of the Brazilian Amazon, commonly called ribeirinhos, are often afflicted by malarial infections. While the biomedical literature locates malaria in the biological body only, ribeirinhos evoke this disease in multiple ways. In this 5-month ethnographic research carried out in Manaus and Careiro, State of Amazonas, Brazil, I move away from the clinical definition of malaria and foreground how the lived body experiences and acts upon this disease. I draw on multiple approaches including STS studies to learn how 30 ribeirinhos experience malaria in terms of symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment practices. Their experiences were shared with me through interviews, participant-observation, and visual methods. Preliminary analysis shows that malaria affects people's lives beyond the biological body. In this sense, malaria is not only an infectious disease subject to public health policies and interventions, but also an individual's life event enacted, lived, and felt in plural ways weaved into social and moral dimensions. This assumption is in line with Mol's assertion that a disease does not exist by itself, but it is dynamically crafted or brought into being by individuals' practices, through complex networks of people, activities, techniques, instruments, and environment. As this study challenges public health normative knowledge on malaria, it brings a new understanding on the realities that are engendered due to malarial infections. A close examination of such realities provides in-depth knowledge on malaria as an object multiple that requires diversified interventions, rather than standardized ones.
Non-conforming bodies: an exploration of public health knowledge, practice and technologies beyond 'the body'