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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Malaria, Mosquitoes, and Maps: Practices and Articulations of Malaria Control in British India and WWII

  • Author(s): Hoffman, Monica Ann
  • Advisor(s): Hartouni, Valerie
  • et al.

What is malaria? Ackerknecht wrote malaria was “fundamentally social” (1945); anthropologists Kelly and Beisel believe malaria’s “historical, sociological and political life . . . exceeds the moment of the parasitological exchange” (2011). In this dissertation, I argue malaria’s complexities make it impossible to divorce the ontological question (What is malaria?) from the epistemological question of How do we know what we know about malaria? To address these questions, I analyze malaria control efforts in British India and in the Allies’ Pacific campaign of World War II, tracking the creation and institutionalization of knowledge production and control practices, as well as the infrastructures that were created or adapted to control malaria in ways that became natural and common sense. I focus on the articulations and practices of coordination between humans, landscapes, and non-human agents (parasites, mosquitoes, maps, surveys, DDT, etc.) in the resistances and successes of human malaria control practices.

I begin in British India and trace the stabilization of knowledge around the mosquito as the malaria vector and the development of mapping practices central to creating and standardizing understandings and articulations of malaria, as well as in shaping official control policies. Engaging a neglected era in malaria’s history, the rest of the dissertation focuses on the Allies’ Pacific malaria control efforts, analyzing the creation of infrastructures and implementation of practices that helped to articulate malaria as a local, multi-species disease, and significantly lowered malaria infection rates. I follow the work of malariologists, entomologists, parasitologists, engineers, cartographers, cartoonists, and enlisted men through their practices of creating reports, catching and dissecting mosquitoes, conducting and analyzing surveys and blood smears, making maps, creating public health campaigns, and engineering projects that relocated populations of people and reduced or eliminated populations of mosquitoes. These practices and objects required coordination and translation to articulate malaria as a legible object across specializations as well as up and down command hierarchies.

Using civilian and military archival sources, and theories from critical geography, science and technology studies, and communication, this dissertation attends to the complex practices, multi-species coordinations, and work of translation needed for effective malaria control strategies.

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