Local biologies, leaky things, and the chemical infrastructure of global health

Alexander Nading

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines how two chemicals are woven into the infrastructure of global health, and into the social lives of health workers in urban Nicaragua. One chemical is temephos, an organophosphate used to control mosquitoes. The other is chlorine-based products, used to disinfect surfaces and water. While global health projects tend to treat these chemicals as stable objects, there are three ways in which they might be understood as leaky things, implicated in fluid social interactions. First, global health chemicals are tracked through rigid accounting, but due to numerical leakages, they become vehicles for fashioning new forms of concern. Second chemicals leak structurally. They can be dissolved and reproduced at a molecular level, though that dissolution is never absolute, and that reproduction is not everywhere the same. Third, chemicals leak in a sensory fashion. Sensory interactions with chemicals produce an entanglement of knowledge about bodies and environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-156
Number of pages16
JournalMedical Anthropology
Issue number2
Early online date22 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • aesthetics
  • community health workers
  • dengue
  • environmental health
  • mosquitoes

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Local biologies, leaky things, and the chemical infrastructure of global health'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this