Portraits of Parasites: Geographic Imaginaries in the Production of Health Knowledge
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Parasites, long understudied, can have tremendous effects on the health, productivity, and well-being of those infected with them. While common conceptions of parasites both within and outside of scientific literature rely heavily on biomedical constructions, the ways in which parasites are understood has not yet been examined. By examining how parasites are conceptualized within biomedical literature and how geographic imaginaries influence that conceptualization, this thesis illuminates some of the key influences on information that we take as fact. By examining how such knowledge is produced, we are better able to critically understand the research that has already been done relying on such knowledge as inherent truth. Focusing specifically on hookworm, a parasite of the developing world, and toxoplasmosis, a parasite of the developed world, this thesis compares their representations, both textual and visual, within biomedical texts to answer the question of how geographic imaginaries become entrenched within the biomedical literature. Using discourse and content analysis, this thesis unravels how human perception of a parasite's geography influences scientific knowledge as seen in twelve parasitology textbooks. Ultimately this thesis argues that parasites, and diseases more broadly, of the developing world are constructed differently than similar diseases more common in the Global North. Developing world diseases are depicted as more grotesque, more environmentally and geographically linked, and as the product of more distal causes than their developed world counterparts. This pattern of representation reproduces the geographic imaginaries of today's parasitologists in future generations of doctors, medical researchers, and academics reading these books.
- Geography