Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Alex Nading

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280 Brook Street, Room 319



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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. Nading, Alex M. “The Heat of Work: Dissipation, Solidarity, and Kidney Disease in Nicaragua,” in How Nature Works, School for Advanced Research Advanced Seminar, edited by Sarah Besky and Alex Blanchette. Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press.

In Press. “Heat,” In Anthropocene Unseen: A Lexicon, edited by Cymene Howe and Anand Pandian. New York: Punctum Books.

Forthcoming (2019). “Human Animal Health,” special issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly. 33.1, edited with Hannah Brown

Forthcoming (2019). Brown, Hannah and Alex M. Nading. “Introduction: Human Animal Health in Medical Anthropology,” in “Human Animal Health,” special issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly 33.1.

2018. Nading, Alex M. and Lucy Lowe. “Social Justice as Epidemic Control: Two Latin American Case Studies,” Medical Anthropology 37(8): 458-471.

2018. Nading, Alex M. and Josh Fisher. “Zopilotes, Alacranes, y Hormigas (Vultures, Scorpions, and Ants): Animal Metaphors as Organizational Politics in a Nicaraguan Garbage Crisis,” Antipode 50(4): 997-1015.

2018. Nading, Alex M. “How to Build Rapport with Cats and Humans,” in Living with Animals: Bonds across Species, Edited by Natalie Porter and Ilana Gershon. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


DEVL 1000, Sophomore Seminar in Development Studies

DEVL 1801A, The Science and Technology of Development

ANTH 1310: Global Health: Anthropological Perspectives

DEVL 1500: Methods in Development Research

Talks & Media

Recent Media

2018. Nading, Alex M. “Dams and Dialysis.” Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1503-dams-and-dialysis 

2018. Nading, Alex M., Josh Fisher, and Chantelle Falconer. “Ethnographic Designs for Buen Vivir: Fieldnotes from Nicaragua,” Platypus, blog of the Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing, http://blog.castac.org/2018/05/buen-vivir/  

Recent Talks

2019                 “Fragility and Hydraulic Activism in Nicaragua’s Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemic.” University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Department of Anthropology

2018                 “Infrastructures of Life Support on Nicaraguan Sugar Plantations,” Hong Kong University Histories and Ecologies of Health Workshop, December 14

“Dams and Dialysis: Industrial Ecology and Infrastructures of Life Support on Nicaraguan Sugar Plantations,” University of Toronto, sponsored by the Centre for Transnational and Diaspora Studies and the School of the Environment, October 3

“Human Rights, Justice, and Global Epidemics,” Bryant University, Lecture commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, September 24 

“Global Health in the Anthropocene: Reflections on Mosquito Borne and Noncommunicable Disease Epidemics in Nicaragua,” in the symposium, “Global Health, Local Ethnographies,” 18th World Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Florianópolis, Brasil, July 17                  

“Ethnography in a Grievance: Enunciatory Communities, Law, and Environmental Justice in Nicaragua's Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemic,” University of Oxford, Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity, January 18

2017                 “Non-Traditional Causes: Environmental Justice Meets Global Health in Nicaraguan Sugarcane Fields,” Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) 10th Anniversary Symposium, University of Wisconsin-Madison, November 4

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