Project | 01
Maraña: Leishmaniasis and the Pharmaceuticalization of War in Colombia
I study the social world of a vector-borne disease called cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) in Colombia, a country that has gone through more than 50 years of armed conflict. I am especially interested in the ways this non-contagious, non-deadly and curable disease, that mostly affects combatants of the Colombian armed conflict—guerrillas, soldiers and paramilitaries—is related to the politics and dynamics of war and its potential resolution. In particular, I interrogate why, how and under what conditions CL has been inextricably associated with the armed conflict, and what the implications of this association are and have been for biomedical research, public health, for the armed conflict itself, for the populations coexisting with both the disease and the conflict, and for the aspirational logics of peace. Drawing on science and technology studies, multispecies ethnography of infectious diseases, and anthropological studies of the state, violence, and military medicine, this project will be based on ethnographic fieldwork at multiple sites: 1) a military center dedicated exclusively to the treatment and recovery of soldiers affected by CL; 2) a biomedical research institute's clinical facility on the Pacific coast, where civilians are diagnosed and treated against CL, and sometimes enrolled in clinical studies; 3) the Temporary Normalization Zone in Colinas, Guaviare, where about 500 members of the FARC guerrilla have gathered in the scope of the peace accords implementation; 4) a military canine training center where dogs of the Colombian Army receive leishmaniasis treatment; 5) two scientific conferences on leishmaniasis, one international and one national; 6) interviews with former victims of kidnapping who were affected by CL while in captivity; and 7) discourse analysis of government and military public documents, and reports from international institutions and organizations related to global health.