Society for Medical Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Mauritius, in the Western Indian Ocean, is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. In one impoverished neighborhood in a suburb of Mauritius’s capital Port Louis, residents not only share a close-knit environment with each other, but also with the aedes mosquito. The aedes is a carrier of diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, and between 2005 to 2007 more than 30 per cent of the island’s total population were infected with chikungunya during an epidemic outbreak. The aedes thrives in artificial reservoirs created by urban spaces, especially in areas where people live in close proximity to each other. Wastelands scattered throughout the neighborhood also contribute to the proliferation of mosquito breeding grounds. These wastelands act as zones of contact between non humans and humans, and thus facilitate the spread of vector-borne diseases. As a result, public health policies advocate for their destruction despite residents’ various uses of these so-called neglected spaces.
This paper, based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork, draws on multispecies ethnography to discuss how the entangling of human lives with those of mosquitoes affects the diffusion and understanding of vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya in Mauritius. I argue that living with mosquitoes entails more than just efforts to get rid of them. Challenged by public health policies, residents of this neighborhood often question the biomedical etiology of chikungunya because it threatens to negatively impact their familiar surroundings and interactions with their environment.