Luisa Castro

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Massachusetts Inst. of Technology

Grant number

Gr. 9677

Approve Date

April 30, 2018

Project Title

Castro, Luisa Reis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Vectors of Health: Science and the Making of Modified Mosquitoes in Brazil,' supervised by Dr. Stefan Helmreich

Preliminary abstract: Aedes aegypti rose to international notoriety as a host for the Zika virus, a disease linked to babies born with health issues. The mosquito is also a vector for other viral diseases, including dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. By ethnographically investigating the implementation of three seemingly similar projects in Brazil modifying A. aegypti to use them to control diseases, I want to explore how each project serves to produce a different model for envisioning the articulation between the state, public health, and science, between the country and the rest of the world. My research asks whether in these projects, as mosquitoes are modified to curtail the capacity to transmit diseases, there is also an effort to portray and promote Brazil as a country that can export knowledge and technology of health solutions. How are modified mosquitoes and the country itself turned into what we can call ‘vectors of health’? Brazil is described as the ‘gold standard’ for these techniques: the tropical weather, the expanding urban landscapes, and the A. aegypti swarming in homes (often resistant to insecticides after generations of being sprayed on) are all pictured as characteristics increasing the challenges and, if overcome, proving the technique’s success. My research builds upon, and expands, scholarship examining how scientific practices can shape and make ‘places,’ by examining how both biological (ecological, evolutionary, physiological, climatic) and anthropological theories craft a ‘Brazil,’ a ‘global South,’ or a ‘global.’ I bring multispecies ethnography to bear on the rich historiography describing how mosquitoes have been important historical agents in the development of Brazilian sciences, statecraft, and nation-building projects.