Your love hurts down to my bones: Exploring public understandings of dengue fever in Medellin, Colombia, through an anthropology-art-science investigation

  • Alejandro Valencia-Tobon

Student thesis: Phd


This is a study of the creation and negotiation of different forms of knowledge about dengue fever. I explore how anthropology, in collaboration with ideas and practices drawn from science and art, may transform public understandings of dengue. Dengue is a vector-borne disease transmitted to humans by the bite of a mosquito which is infected with the dengue virus. Mosquito-borne diseases have normally been treated through vector control and the elimination of breeding sites. Until 1960, the use of the pesticide DDT allowed the virtual eradication of Aedes aegypti (Ae. aegypti) in many places of the world. DDT was banned in most of the world by 1970 and by 1980 the focus on vector-control was replaced by a discourse of sanitation, in which health authorities tried to 'educate' populations and 'teach' proper hygienic habits to avoid mosquito-human contact. At present, these practices are changing again. The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that dengue incidence could be reduced at least 50% by 2020 through applying health campaigns and social interventions that involve having people participating in the control of dengue outbreaks. In this thesis I explore how WHO guidelines are applied in the control of dengue in MedellĂ­n, and how we can think about the concepts of 'knowledge', 'education' and public health campaigns through ethnographic methods. My project has been about looking at how different understandings - or different forms of knowledge - are part of interactions of different 'publics', non-expert citizens, virologists, entomologists and artists. My argument is that health campaigns should be re-designed - privileging relations and stimulating debate - by focusing on experience and moving towards managing the disease and living with the mosquito. Contrary to the different models enacted in health campaigns - which neglect the value of everyday experiences - I advocate for interdisciplinary collaboration as a relational art strategy that can generate an intersubjective exchange of experiences.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRupert Cox (Supervisor) & Maia Green (Supervisor)


  • ethnographic conceptualism
  • ethnography by design
  • health campaigns
  • knowledge
  • participation
  • Aedes aegypti
  • art
  • anthropology
  • science
  • mosquito
  • fever
  • Dengue

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