Antibiotic ‘entanglements’: Health, labour and everyday life in an urban informal settlement in Kampala, Uganda

Christine Nabirye, Laurie Denyer Willis*, Susan Nayiga, Miriam Kayendeke, Sarah G. Staedke, Clare IR. Chandler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Antibiotics are a routine part of everyday life in many contexts, contributing to the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Our ethnographic research documents the ways that antibiotics have become a key part of everyday life for precariously employed urban day-wage workers living in a large informal settlement in Kampala, Uganda. We found that for many people, their daily work and ongoing health was entangled with antibiotic use; that is, people showed us how their antibiotic use cannot be separated from the realities of living in a politically, economically and environmentally degraded ‘informal’ landscape. Thinking through entanglement as itself a politics, we show how limited political power, inability to demand change, and inequitable access to good health care, are associated with high rates of infection and disease, precarious work, and polluted environments. Antibiotics, we argue, have become a way to negotiate the inequalities written into these informal urban landscapes; their use entangled with ongoing relations with labour, environment and bodily suffering. Through this approach, we show how antimicrobials are used in society, with an attention to how vulnerabilities, risks, and forms of abandonment and exclusion shape their everyday use. Antibiotic use is entangled with everyday life in informal settlements, and the politics that produce ‘informality’. In Kampala today, the entanglement of antibiotics with life in informal settlements reveals how forms of urban segregation, life in ‘slums’ and their everyday acceptance, shape the pathways and uses of antimicrobials.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalCritical Public Health
Early online date8 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Nov 2021


  • antibiotics
  • entanglement
  • informal settlements
  • informality
  • infrastructure


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