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Diseases at the Interface: An Ecological Inquiry into One Health With Fieldwork in Peru

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This thesis is an anthropological study of ecological reconceptualizations of health and disease in contemporary infectious disease epidemiology, based on inquiry into how the One Health model was incorporated into global health research practices at three different human-animal- environment interfaces at three different field sites across Peru and integrated into a governance tool for global health security. In recent decades, a growing recognition of the shared susceptibility of humans and animals to infectious pathogens has contributed to the adoption and institutionalization of One Health in emerging global health frameworks and several key global health security initiatives. One Health designates an approach to global health that emphasizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental wellbeing, and it includes a correlative call to examine zoonoses (diseases that spread from animals to humans) vis-a-vis multidisciplinary collaborative efforts that target pathogenic activity at “the human-animal-environment interface”. Drawing on extensive fieldwork among epidemiologists, security strategists, and health administrators studying endemic zoonotic and vector-borne diseases in Peru, this thesis examines the epistemological complexities and ethnographic realities that emerge when the problem of human health is situated within a wider biosocial ecosystem.

In this dissertation, I illustrate how the transmission of infectious pathogens across different species interfaces conditioned specific situations of zoonotic disease endemism as well as the emergence of novel forms of epidemiological thought and practice ‘at the interface’. The first three chapters each work as distinct case studies wherein I examine how epidemiologists and global health researchers oriented to human-animal-environment interfaces to study zoonoses. I describe the conceptual tools and field techniques they brought and/or invented to address the problems posed by zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, and I critically analyze the ethical and epistemological challenges that arose contingently amidst their attempts to “control” disease. In the fourth chapter, I historically situate and problematize the integrative tools and systemic logics mobilized to coordinate national and global health security priorities across the region of the Americas, suggesting a resonance between One Health’s emphasis on ‘the interface’ and the contemporary model of global health governance in which, as the saying goes, disease knows no borders.

In sum, the thesis argues that ecological orientations to disease and disease prevention are being actively integrated into contemporary global health research and security agendas, and that adopting an ecological perspective in anthropological inquiry helps to bring global health into view as itself a complex ecosystem composed of interacting relations across species, disciplinary, and national interfaces.

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This item is under embargo until August 10, 2023.