Alex Nading, Lecturer, School of Social and Political Science, The University of Edinburgh

Global Health, Global Work, Global Heat: Rethinking Cause and Effect in Nicaraguan Sugarcane Fields

In northwest Nicaragua, a new form of renal failure is killing sugar plantation workers. Since 2000, roughly one-third of all deaths among men in the area have been attributed to “chronic kidney disease of nontraditional causes” (CKDnt). In 2005, alleging that CKDnt was linked to pesticide exposure, a group of Nicaraguan workers mobilized alongside transnational labor lawyers to convince the World Bank to fund a study of the problem. Tracing the emergence of a popular movement that turned CKDnt from a local crisis into a global health concern, this project will show how three distinct ideas of cause circulate through the domains of law and science as well as through collective social movements. Within global health, cause is most familiar as a synonym for disease etiology. In law, cause references reasonable grounds for a claim. In social movements, cause connotes a common goal or moral end. A more refined understanding of how these three ideas intersect can enhance anthropological understandings of how the meaning and operations of social justice develop.

All seminars in the series.