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DENGUE MOSQUITOES ARE SINGLE MOTHERS: Biopolitics Meets Ecological Aesthetics in Nicaraguan Community Health Work



Nicaraguan Ministry of Health protocols for the control of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue fever, hinge on an aesthetic ordering of the urban household, one in which mosquitoes, like garbage and dirt, do not belong. Management regimes such as this appear to rely on an alienation of people—and in the case of dengue, women in particular—from the urban natures in which they live. In this article, I draw on 18 months of research with Nicaraguan community health workers (brigadistas) for whom mosquito abatement involved an opening, rather than a closing, of the landscape. Brigadistas, especially female brigadistas, took deep pleasure in learning about mosquito–human lifeworlds, a pleasure I call “ecological aesthetic.” Ecological aesthetics—patterns of connection that are identifiable only through performance—contrasted to the more familiar aesthetics identifiable in the ministry's ordering of the household. Although the latter aesthetic has human control over life at its core, the former emphasizes entanglement, a relational knowledge of life. I suggest some implications of this idea for future anthropological studies of “the politics of life.”