Research project Making Peace with Pests
From Conflict to Conviviality with Mosquitos Across Southeast Asia
This project ethnographically investigates the vexed socio-political relations between humans and mosquitos. As is particularly the case in Southeast Asia, mosquitos are responsible for thousands of deaths each year, leading them to be labelled as ‘pest’ and subject to various large-scale programs to wipe them out.
However, these insects are also essential to pollination and as nutrients in terrestrial food webs. As such, their eradication may lead the collapse of whole ecosystems in what is being dubbed as the ‘insect apocalypse’.
Therefore, in this project I go beyond common portrays of mosquitos, and the subsequent war-like relations these portrayals engender, to comparatively explore two different modes of making peace and creating conviviality with these insects across Southeast Asia: from technological visions in hypermodern Singapore; to vernacular and conservation practices and policies on the war-torn Myanmar-Thai borderlands.
I go about this by conducting 10 months of ethnographic research, with qualitative interviews of key actors and participant-observation in contact zones of human-mosquito interaction. In this manner, I investigate not only policy and discourses on conviviality with mosquitoes, but also how it is practiced in day-to-day life. In the face of continued global warming, collapsing biodiversity and in the wake of a global pandemic, this research responds to the urgent need to investigate the entanglements between epidemics, politics and ecologies.