I am a medical and environmental anthropologist with a regional focus on Latin America. My research has explored the multi-species aspects of infectious diseases, the relationship between place and health in the age of global biomedical interventions, and the relevance of landscape to people’s conceptions of well-being. Most of my fieldwork has taken place in a low-income suburb of Managua, Nicaragua, but I have also done research in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the United States. I teach courses on the environment and ecological thought in anthropology; medical anthropology; contemporary Latin America; and social anthropology.
I came to anthropology via the most conventional of routes: an introductory undergraduate course. I was delightfully confused. Many years later, I am still pursuing the basic questions that my undergraduate professors raised. Here at F&M, I am always keen to work with students interested in the social and cultural aspects of public health, the environment, science and technology, and bioethics.
B.A. Anthropology and English, University of Virginia
M.A. Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation, University of Sussex (UK)
Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
At present, I am working on two research projects.
The first is based on fieldwork I carried out in Nicaragua between 2007 and 2009, funded by the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright-Hays, and the National Science Foundation. It describes how Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua became a waypoint in the global spread of dengue fever. Dengue is a mosquito-borne illness that now threatens over two billion people worldwide, mostly in the urban tropics. The focus of my study was a series of house-to-house dengue prevention campaigns in which government experts linked urban livelihood practices—specifically the collection and sale of recyclable waste—to the propagation of dengue mosquitoes. During 24 months of fieldwork, I observed numerous such campaigns and worked in streets and dumps alongside informal garbage scavengers. I also interviewed local health workers, national policymakers, and international dengue scientists. I found that ostensibly neutral biomedical ideas about dengue became bound up in a complex history of urban poverty and political mobilization. Public awareness of dengue’s spread reignited longstanding local debates about women’s responsibility for household hygiene, the effects of an informal waste economy on the environment, and the presence of the state in the private lives of the poor.
I have done research on the ethics and economics of dengue vaccine research, the production of and marketing of genetically modified viruses and mosquitoes, and the clash of environmental and medical ethics these projects engender.
Over the next few years, I am launching a new field-based project on the complex relationships between humans and the "microbiome," the diverse collection of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other organisms that live inside and around human bodies. For this project, I will return to Nicaragua, where microbes make diarrhea, respirtatory, and skin diseases leading causes of morbidity and mortality. I will look not only at the control of microbes through sanitation and antibiotic drugs but also at the cooperative relationships between people and microbes. Many of those who suffer from irregular access to clean water also manipulate bacteria to make cheese, sour cream, fermented vegetables, and homemade alcohol, key components of nutritional and social life. It is thus possible to analyze human-microbe relations in Nicaragua through the lenses of both medical anthropology and “multispecies” anthropology. Such an analysis would include health workers as well as farmers, food producers, market workers, and householders.
The study of technology and the environment has also led me to investigate the world of artisanal aluminum recycling in Nicaragua. This work has allowed me to anthropologically indulge my interest in what used to be called "outsider art."
2013. “’Love Isn’t There in Your Stomach:’ A Moral Economy of Medical Citizenship among Nicaraguan Community Health Workers,” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 27(1): 84-102. Article here.
2012. “’Dengue Mosquitoes are Single Mothers:’ Biopolitics Meets Ecological Aesthetics in Nicaraguan Community Health Work,” Cultural Anthropology 27 (4): 572-596. Article here.
2011 “Foundry Values: Artisanal Aluminum Recyclers, Economic Involution, and Skill in Periurban Managua” Urban Anthropology 40(3-4): 319-360. Article here.
ANT 100, Social Anthropology
ANT 272, Medical Anthropology
ANT 373, Culture and the Environment