Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Alex Nading

Alex Nading

Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs


Alex Nading is a Senior Fellow for International and and Public Affairs. His research focuses on global health, the environment, and social justice. It charts the political, technical, and social spaces where environmental change and epidemic disease meet. These spaces are diverse. They include (among others) laboratories, latrines, policy meetings, plantations, garbage dumps, and gut linings. His first book, Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health, and the Politics of Entanglement (University of California Press, 2014), is an ethnography of community-based dengue fever control in urban Nicaragua. In addition, he has published articles and chapters on topics including genetically modified mosquitoes, dengue vaccines, the human microbiome, food safety, and the role of toxic chemicals in global health interventions. His current research examines how environmental justice activists are addressing an epidemic of chronic kidney disease on Nicaraguan sugarcane plantations. An anthropologist by training, Nading received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  


Supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Nading is following the efforts of environmental and labor activists to address an epidemic of chronic kidney disease on Nicaraguan sugarcane plantations. The project situates the experience of the epidemic amid chronic pesticide exposure, water scarcity, land tenure insecurity, and a changing climate. It shows how, under conditions of climatic and industrial disaster, the political and legal logic of environmental justice is converging with the humanitarian and technical logic of global health.

He is also co-Principal Investigator on a three-year National Science Foundation-funded study that asks how conceptions of “quality of life” vary among residents of Managua, Nicaragua. Drawing on a Latin American tradition of collaborative inquiry, Nading and his research team are convening a cohort of garbage recyclers, government officials, urban garden brigades, health promoters, and teachers in regular workshops where they use art projects, photography, and modeling exercises to devise novel approaches to the environmental and health challenges facing the city.


In Press. (with Josh Fisher). “Zopilotes, Alacranes, y Hormigas (Vultures, Scorpions, and Ants): Animal Metaphors as Organizational Politics in a Nicaraguan Garbage Crisis,” Antipode

2017. “Orientation and Crafted Bureaucracy: Finding Dignity in Nicaraguan Food Safety,” American Anthropologist 119(3): 478-490.

2017. (with Abigail Neely) “Global Health from the Outside: The Promise of Place-Based Research,” Health and Place 45: 55-63.

2017. “Local Biologies, Leaky Things, and the Chemical Infrastructure of Global Health,” Medical Anthropology 36(2): 141-156.

2016. “Evidentiary Symbiosis: On Paraethnography in Human-Microbe Relations,” Science as Culture 25(4): 560-581.

2015. “Chimeric Globalism: Global Health in the Shadow of the Dengue Vaccine,” American Ethnologist 42(2): 356-370.

2015. “The Lively Ethics of Global Health GMOs: The Case of the Oxitec Mosquito,” BioSocieties 10(1): 24-47.

2014. Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health, and the Politics of Entanglement. Oakland: University of California Press. [Honorable Mention, Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology Book Prize]


DEVL 1000, Sophomore Seminar in Development Studies

Talks & Media

2018. “Ethnography in a Grievance: Enunciatory Communities, Law, and Environmental Justice in Nicaragua's Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemic,” Oxford University, Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity

2017. “Zopilotes, Hormigas, y Alacranes (Vultures, Ants, and Scorpions): Animal Metaphors as Organizational Politics in a Nicaraguan Trash-Picking Community,” London School of Economics Urbanisation, Planning, and Development Seminar Series

2017. “Can Microbes Give Gifts?” in a Book Forum on Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes, Medical Anthropology Quarterly “Critical Care” blog,

2016. “Mosquitoes, Microbes, and Toxic Chemicals in Global Health: The View from Medical Anthropology,” Vanderbilt University, Latin American Studies Center

2016. “Dengue, Zika, and the Trouble with Classifications,” Anthropology News.

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