Mediating technologies. Diagnostic spaces between standardization and adaptation in Ugandas malaria control program




M.A. René Umlauf






2010 -


The following project examines the socio-technical “life” (HARDON et al. 2002) of a new WHO standard which aims at parasitological diagnosis to become a mandatory part of the standard treatment procedure of all suspected cases of malaria (WHO 2010). This policy shift is paralleled by the introduction of new Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) which promise to be cost-efficient solution for poorly performing health infrastructures of most malaria endemic countries including major parts of Africa. Taking the adoption of parasitological diagnosis as new national standard and the implementation of RDTs into the Ugandan health care systems as empirical basis this project seeks to (I) visualize the networks out of which the standard emerges, (II) explore the models whereby it is enacted as a scientific instrument and (III) trace the technologies that are expected to translate parasitological diagnosis into everyday health care practices. We will argue that the adoption of a new standard is not only an expression of higher certainty and better scientific evidence, but should be also analyzed as an increase in uncertainty, fragmentation and disorder. The results of this ethnography contribute to the ongoing discussion on the role of health standards and their impact for the production of social order in Africa.