Viral enactments: disentangling a more-than-human network in the context of mosquito-borne diseases in Sergipe state, Brazil

Túllio Dias da Silva Maia

Mosquito-borne viruses have been a concern in Brazil since the end of the 19th century. The recent scenario of endemic and emerging arboviruses in the country stimulates a set of institutional practices. My research project consists of an ethnographic approach to the entanglement between mosquito-viral ecologies and the ecology of practices directed at vigilância epidemiológica and mosquito control in Sergipe, a state in the northeast of Brazil. Scientists, public servants, health workers, common householders are some of the overlapping roles played by my informants. Differently from the usual ethnographic pieces involving mosquitoes and their related pathogens and diseases, this project focuses not on specific species or diseases but on complex ecologies happening in Sergipe, of which mosquitoes are key actors. Therefore, I highlight not only Aedes aegypti, the mosquito responsible for carrying and transmitting dengue, Zika and chikungunya viruses but also Ae. albopictus, Haemagogus spp., Sabethes spp., as they are examples of ‘sylvatic mosquitoes’ related to the imminence of yellow fever in the state. Endemic and emergent diseases are situations requiring specific institutional responses and generate their own constellation of practices. Key to my argument has been the idea of diseases as multi-layered processes of which encounters with mosquitoes and microbes is only one of them. The preliminary results of this project have been showing that vigilância epidemiológica (epidemiological surveillance, although ‘surveillance’ does not quite grasp the complexity of vigilância) is the key constellation of practices through which I will be accessing relevant topics to political and more-than-human geographies, as well as to medical anthropology. This project is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Supervisor: Professor Steve Hinchliffe (Department of Human Geography, University of Exeter).

Co-supervisors: Professor Ann Kelly (Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, King’s College); Professor Ben Longdon (Department of Biosciences, University of Exeter).

Research Fellows: Professor Uli Beisel (Institut für Geographische Wissenschaften, Frei Universtät Berlin); Professor Felipe Vander Velden (Humanimalia, Departamento de Ciências Sociais, Universidade Federal de São Carlos); Professor Roseli La Corte (Laboratório de Entomologia e Parasitologia Tropical, Departamento de Morfologia, Universidade Federal de Sergipe).