Article ID: CBB071953965

Imagined Ecologies: A More-Than-Human History of Malaria in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, New South Wales, Australia, 1919–45 (July 2017)


In eastern inland Australia, the significant redistribution of water in the Murray River system for irrigated agriculture from the late nineteenth century created new ecological dynamics. At the same time, scientific research into mosquito-borne diseases also increased. Scientific proof of the life cycle of malaria in the late nineteenth century, and subsequent research into this and other mosquito-borne diseases, changed people’s relationships with watery landscapes, including irrigation areas, as well as with mosquitoes. Wetlands were no longer just dangerous to visit but could come out into the world, onto farms, and into homes via these insects. Within these contexts, this article examines changing understandings of mosquitoes and irrigation systems in light of a series of investigations into the possibility of an outbreak of malaria in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area between 1919 and 1945. Using the concept of imagined ecologies, it examines the way that particular understandings of nonhumans were and are world-making. It particularly analyzes the shifting biocultural terrains of the borders between agriculture and “nature,” and the home and nonhumans, as well as approaches to race and health, as mosquitoes were now seen to bring tropical diseases to the climatically and socially idealized temperate inland. Underpinned by powerful political and social goals, these watery farming areas could not be drained like other wetlands, presenting possible new medical, ecological, and ideological challenges.

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Authors & Contributors
Webb, James L. A., Jr.
Humphreys, Margaret E.
Sweeney, Tony
Anderson, Warwick H.
Cathcart, Michael
Morgan, Ruth A.
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Australian Historical Studies
Journal of Medical Biography
Journal of the History of Biology
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Cambridge University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Melbourne University Press
Duke University Press
Text Publishing
Erasmus Publishing
Disease and diseases
Parasitic diseases
Public health
Tropical medicine
Boyd, John Smith Knox
Swellengrebel, Nicolaas Hendrik
Eyles, Don Edgar (1915-1963)
Coatney, George Robert (1902-1990)
United States
Malay; Malaysia
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
18th century
21st century
Rockefeller Foundation
U.S. National Institutes of Health

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