How land tenure shapes the relative location of people and the transmission of disease

I was revisiting a paper that really inspired my thinking before starting this project. It builds on the work of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Milton Santos and Angelo Celli to question the way in which ‘land-use’ is taken for granted in relation to considering its effects on disease.

I was then recently introduced through RESET to this work by a colleague at University of Helsinki. This paper look at how malaria declined in Finland due to social factors, rather than environmental or medical intervention factors per se. It suggested that the (cross)location or spatialization of people in relation to land ownership, tenure and justice was the key determining factor for the disappearance of malaria:

This reminded me of of some earlier reading in my PhD on land tenure in Cyprus and the movement of mosquitos across internal legal and informal boundaries within Cyprus. In particular how the British Empire’s land and social reform of Cyprus  (forced enclosure and transformation from common land tenure into private estates) led to famine and environmental degradation which were then blamed back on Cypriots.

The historical assumption in Cyprus is that malaria was always really bad, but the aforementioned papers open up the question of whether the reforms introduced under colonial rule exacerbated malaria, giving the colonial officers the then justification for saving people from malaria, just as was done with ‘the ruined landscape narrative’? I don’t know but hopefully my current archival work will enable me to test this hypothesis or at least make more sense of what was happening.

There also the key motivation for malaria reduction in Cyprus to be considered, being explicitly the fact that it was badly effecting the many colonial troops moving via Cyprus to multiple locations throughout Empire.

Side note on colonialism of the future

On a side note, I have an additional hunch that there may be some category reproduction issues (a kind of colonialism of the future) sitting within all this around land that I will need to be sensitive to when trying to explore this hypothesis. Specifically, when thinking about what this archival research means for the future, seeing as my project is future orientated.

What I mean by category reproduction issues and colonialism of the future is perhaps best explained by some work I did on a land-use science project. In this work myself and some land use scientists were tasked with building land-use scenarios for different futures. One of the futures was we broadly called a degrowth scenario.

We were using land-use models to break up the landscape up into specific units such as arable land, nature, urban, grassland etc. So now when we tried to model a degrowth future, it was modelled according to whether there was less or more of each of these categories of land-use and their spatial distribution.

This meant that a degrowth future from the perspective of the current status-quo on land-use appears to be a quantitative subtraction (or addition) of the specific units of land use. More or less: arable land, nature, urban, grassland etc. This promoted an instinctually austere understanding of a degrowth future, as it appears as a less human land use and more nature by comparison to the present.

But this was false. A degrowth future was not primarily about a quantitative difference in comparison to present categories of land-use. I mean that will happen. It is about ditching the nature-culture dichotomy. It is about a qualitative difference in categories based on a re-understanding of ecology and biology, found in an intimate experience and attention to animals, plants, soils etc., that reveals a better understanding of phenomenon to do with succession, trophic levels, trophic cascades, naturalisation of species, and a whole variety of regenerative practices that have been practised by indigenous peoples, peasants and land practitioners worldwide.

Returning to my land-use modelling, it means that the categories of ‘nature’ versus ‘arable’ land-use make no ecological, social or hydrological sense in a degrowth future. The land would be categorised in a fundamentally different way. For example there could be forest gardens and woodland rather than forests, or intercropping, mixed farming, agriwilding and land-sharing rather than nature and arable fields. All these categories are not merely culturally subjective translations of the same thing; they describe entirely different socio-ecologies. And it does not matter how complex your models categories are if it tries to map the future by projecting present categories.

The status quo and authority of the categories used to model is thus inherently static and stuck and unable to realize or see transformation. With different category names merely being seen as subjective cultural wish-wash. The status quo reproduces its categories even when it thinks about change. The status quo can only see change according to its current categories. Instead of rethinking land-use categories it simply reproduces them into the future as variations of the present, despite the categories themselves being the issue. And all of this is built into the representational technologies used to think with. In that sense the future is colonised.

Partial Introductions to Coproduction

Yesterday I attended the inaugural in person meeting of RESET (Resilient and Just Systems) at Helsinki University which aims to bring together different academics toward coproducing research as part of resilient and just socioecological change.

I thought it worth summarizing my experiences of coproduction as an invitation to other researchers to do likewise and hopefully this can help us better coproduce work going forward. Particularly as my current work as part of RESET involves coproduction.

As is noted within, these are not necessarily flagship examples of coproduction or even fully formed examples but instead reflect a few of the different learning points I have encountered toward my intention of coproducing more.

(1) Cocreating art across disciplines:

As an undergraduate my peers and I organised multiple seminar series with fellow students and academics from different backgrounds to explore ‘the elephant in the room’. We were in a university department comprising both anthropologists and wildlife conservationists, however, there did not seem to be as much meaningful cross-disciplinary collaboration as we had hoped. Whilst these seminars, that imitated our academic superiors, involved a lot of learning and were interesting, it was when we turned our hand to art that something really seemed to catalyse. We crafted a sizable elephant in front of the department building that everyone could contribute to creating. We then placed the sculpture in the middle of the department building where people from both disciplines would have to encounter it. It remained there for over a year. Over the following years a funding pot for anthropologists and conservationists was created to support collaboration on mini research projects. In addition the department introduced a new disciplinary branch in the form of Human Ecology and Human Geography, that were intended to bridge the gap we had perceived. I taught Human Ecology as an Associate Lecture as part of this.

What I learnt about coproduction:

Collective creative and playful interventions can provide powerful and memorable moments that manifest the social complexity inherent in collective environments. Specifically in a totemic, iconic and tangible form that represents something ungraspable by tidy, linear and rational argumentation and thus reaches outside of siloed pigeonholes. In sum, icons can say something more than science about science that connects people with science.

(2) Collaborating across opposition

On the side of my doctoral research I developed a hypothesis to do with corvid pest management in my fieldsite, but realised I was not equipped to test the hypothesis by myself. So I approached a friend who was an ornithologist to ask if he would team up with me. He also invited a geneticist from his Faculty in Veterinary Medicine who then also invited one of their students. Together we tested the original hunch I had. Crucially it would also require the organisation I was studying (a hunting federation) to participate with academics that belonged to an organisation (Save the Birds) that was in opposition to it. At the beginning of my PhD I tried something similar and failed in this endeavour as I tried to bring wildlife conservationists and hunters together around a research agenda they did not understand, rather than in this case around a question that required us all and peaked everyone’s interest. At the very least it was focused on pests which was a less contentious topic as it focused on mutually unwanted animals.

What I learnt about coproduction:

Formal plans and intentions might not work, but paying attention to what is possible means initial failures led to successes in co-authored research that had specific policy implications.

(3) Giving Back Research

As is now customary in social anthropology, after I finished my doctorate I created a slimmed down more accessible version of my thesis and gave copies to my informants (mostly hunters) and talked them through it and gathered their feedback and responses.

What I learnt about coproduction:

Informants were interested in things I had not even considered, more in their social dynamics of having research about them introduced to their social milieu and how my work played into local politics of representation. Whilst this was not technically coproduction it taught me to be more aware of how research as an object rather than its content per se, has a kind of agency when introduced to a social context.

(4) Public-Private Partnership Engagement

I was employed alongside another junior researcher to deliver a 2 year project designed by 2 senior researchers, all from disciplines I was not trained in. The project involved producing future scenarios through spinning together a partnership’s different stakeholder insights. Ultimately a report was written, but the partnership were not invested in the project and did not understand its purpose as it was not articulated on their terms, but instead acted as a research trophy on the private sponsor’s wall. In addition the existent partnership we engaged with had not itself developed any meaningful basis itself to engage with researchers.

What I learnt about coproduction:

If you are going to do a coproduced research project then you have to do the groundwork. Either take time to cultivate a shared understanding and interest or be sure to engage with a partnership or set of organisations that has already developed a way of working and to see where they are at and how your contribution as an academic can be of service to them on shared terms.

(5) Supporting existent coproduction

I joined a team producing research and co-directing a film where the protagonists and the researchers had become equal members of the team, particularly in the making of the ethnographic film. Initially I noticed that they were missing a new voice to bounce off and someone to organize engagement with their film so I gently offered to play that role. This led to an ongoing collaboration exploring the social context of tuberculosis outbreak through explicitly coproduced research.

What I learnt about coproduction:

Coproduction can emerge iteratively from what was once an individualized predefined research project. I also learnt that coproducing a narrative can be a very therapeutic endeavour for non academics involved, as often people do not have the facilities, platform or confidence that their stories are worth hearing and have authority.

Hence coproducing a research based film enables this rationalization of messy reality into a somewhat linear narrative, without losing context, whilst also being accessible and with some academic authority.

(6) Supporting organizing

I belong to a union that was approached by migrant care workers facing exploitation. I established rapport by supporting events, cooking, helping with flyers, building a website etc. It was patently clear that without addressing the working conditions of social care workers all of the health challenges they worked on are going to suffer. As an academic working in public health it became obvious that the key determinant of many health conditions is dependent on the working conditions of care workers. So I decided to play a supportive role in helping them organize as a union and fight for better working conditions whilst also reaching out and introducing them to other organisations that could support them in other ways.

What I learnt about coproduction:

Coproduction is not simply about making research outputs together. Instead the question becomes ‘what life is it that we want to coproduce, lets create that, yes its difficult, but that is where we are going to start and to achieve that means getting organized and discovering collective power’. As a researcher it is for me to identify what the research needs are that can be met in this process and bringing an academic perspective and labour to that.

(7) Resisting misuse of coproduction

As part of an underground emergency response committee I was asked if I would provide some key tactical support for a local community who were losing their dental practice. This was not needed in the end but I ended up acting as a spokesperson and running the meetings with the national authority responsible for having shut their dental practice.

What I learnt about coproduction:

As a researcher simply being in these contexts introduces you to the realities of what is happening and enables you to theorize a topic in a grounded way. But most importantly in this context the national authority tried to use the language of coproduction to say they wanted to work with the local community to find a solution. But in fact, because I was there on the ground I could witness that at no point did this authority budge and instead continually expected the community to fit into their criteria, and even when the community did so, they were offered absolutely no innovative ideas or help in return. In this case coproduction was used to make a situation sound better than it was and placate people, which is why it was ultimately rejected by the community, at my suggestion, as a descriptor of what was happening.

Partners in More-than-Human Health?

I just came across one of my former students -Joel- giving a talk at the forthcoming the Paul Farmer Partners In Health (PIH) symposium. PIH are to me one of the most inspiring organisations in the world, cofounded by Paul Farmer a medic and medical anthropologist.

I originally tried to include them somehow in my postdoc proposal, specifically because climate change related mosquito associated disease is taking off in Peru where PIH are trying to address this.  It got too complex to formally do so at the time, but inevitably I will bump into them along the way. Instead I am hoping to collaborate with this group in the coming future.

I am bringing up PIH because earlier this week at the in-person launch of RESET (Resilient and Just Systems research group at Helsinki University) one of the lead people, Tarja, explicitly invited “bold ideas”. Then last night after musing on this I had a waking dream that left me with the question of what would a Veterinary and Anthropology One Health version of PIH look like?

If PIH is the critical counterpart to the WHO then what is the critical counterpart to WOAH (OIE) that looks at disease as more-than-human?

Stray Dogs, Queer Crows, Finnish Funding: Podcast on Trajectory That Brought Me Here and Where I Might Be Going

I jumped on the EXALT podcast with Chris and Sophia:

“We had a deeply interesting conversation with social anthropologist, Dr. Khalil ‘Avi’ Betz-Heinemann, who is a Researcher on Animal Crosslocations, with the Resilient and Just Systems (RESET) Network at University of Helsinki. We talked about his new project, “Mosquito Crosslocations and Participatory Evaluations of Mosquito Interventions,” and the trajectory that led him to be interested in these topics. In this conversation we think through the complex web of relationships inherent to multispecies interactions. In particular, he highlighted some of the compelling reasons why we need to shift some of our narratives related to the myriad beings we humans characterize as “pests”. Pests is in quotes because using this language casually brings its own sometimes (often) misguided perceptions and assumptions about the role the being in question plays within the wider web of life.”

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Characters in Mehmet Aziz’s World of Anopheles Eradication 1946

Ronald Ross (1857-1932) accredited with the discovery of how malaria is transmitted whilst working in India. Came to Cyprus where local Cypriot Doctor Mehmet Aziz apprenticed under him.

Mehmet Aziz became the Chief Health Inspector and Executive Officer of the Anopheles (Malaria) Eradication Scheme in Cyprus.

Among other landscape management techniques, Paris Green was used to kill mosquito larvae in Cyprus.


Mehmet Aziz traveled with Marshall Barber, the Malarialogist of the Rockefeller Foundation from Cyprus to Syria, Turkey back through to Palestine and down to Egypt and back to Cyprus to study mosquitoes and malaria schemes in these countries. Barber is most impressed with “the Zionist” efforts to control malaria.

Mehmet consulted the work of Fred Soper and Bruce Wilson (4th from the left) who worked for the Rockefeller Foundation on mosquitoes in Brazil and then in the Nile Delta. Their work in Egypt with the Egyptian government informed Mehmet Aziz’s Scheme.

Mehmet Aziz secured funding from the Rockefeller Foundation to test on the Karpas region of Cyprus his plan for not just controlling but eradicating malaria.

Mehmet Aziz worked with Mr P Allen (no image found) of the Near East Foundation in collaboration with the American University of Beirut to send students from Lebanon and Syria to apprentice with Mehmet Aziz and learn from his Malaria Eradication Scheme. Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan sits today on the Council of The Near East Foundation.

Mehmet Aziz has a well organised hierarchy of workers, recruitment schemes and commentary on the aspects of labour in his Scheme. One secondary set of recruits come from the Turkish Lycée of Nicosia, I believe the older version of the same Lycée I attended when I lived in Cyprus.

Mehmet Aziz uses DDT alongside a litany of labour and mapping techniques in his Malaria Eradication (“not Control”) Scheme. Mehmet notes with frustration that “illegal Jewish migrants” sent by British forces from Palestine to internment camps in Cyprus means he has to add extra protocols . Pictured Jewish migrants being sprayed with DDT before being placed on a ship to Cyprus. The cemeteries of those who died during this internment provided the justification (to visit) for my family to migrate across then then closed border between southern and northern Cyprus when I first moved there.

George Macdonald, a malarialogist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine engages in regular and correspondence with Mehmet Aziz urging him on and requests regular reports and results. Macdonald is later accredited with developing the concept of ‘the basic reproduction rate’ to quantitatively understand the transmission of malaria and was one of the first to use computers to mathematically model malaria transmission.


This is rapid visualization of the characters mentioned in Mehmet Aziz ‘Report on the Anopheles (Malaria) Eradication Scheme in Karpas-Cyprus’ 1946. The scheme on which is then based the island wide scheme that eradicated Malaria in Cyprus, for now. The Wellcome Institute holds a archive of photographs Mehmet Aziz’s team took during this Scheme.

An Excavation of Schismogenesis (Beyond Identity)

Ever since the concept of Schismogensis was rearticulated through Area Studies, as covered in the book reviewed here, I have had a concern about there being kinds of schismogenesis, in terms of a kind that digs dualism deeper, a schismogenesis of the stuck, or schizophrenia of the group as Bateson might have put it. A schismo(no)genesis? By contrast to a ‘transformative’ kind of schismogenesis.

I am still unsure what I am sensing here, but this article I think is tackling part this:

“The media does not know metamorphosis. It constructs and distributes mass-produced identities and requires everyone who comes into contact with it to show his or her papers. It challenges its users from series to quiz show to look at themselves on the screen. It has replaced the classic model, in which every individual could be socially placed on the basis of work and sex, with the identities market, where you can be anything you want, as long as you’re something and let it show. Activists figured out over time that you couldn’t stay permanently current, but that you could get back into the media, as long as you presented yourself time after time under another name and organizational form. Being elusive for press and police was achieved through playing off the media norm of name and intention against itself. Thus it also became less and less lucrative to appear as the squat movement, however staunchly loyal you remained to it in your own circle. This desire to become imaginary resulted in a knowledge of media-machinations, which became second nature, an automatism in which the action only exists once it’s been an item. The entry into medial space, to the neglect of the extra-medial, resulted in the forgetting of the possibility of metamorphosis, which was accepted without a thought by the squatters in the early days. One can consciously and at will switch over from one identity to the other. But metamorphosis has nothing to do with desire or consciousness, with choosing from myriad options. The transformation is possible when one enters the emptiness at the right moment in order to appear elsewhere as something different, without it being established what. The medium of the metamorphosis is the body, the matter itself, and not only its image, or identity.”

What has this got to do with crosslocations? Understanding less how people across locations construct identity in relation to each other, but more in how housing, homes, streets and inhabitance are made as locations of self organising or not, in relation to media, digital communications and ways of relating that relocate where and how we mobilise/demobilise and connect or separate from each other. How the social and material infrastructure of whether an encounter happens and how, is the subject matter of crosslocations. In other words perhaps there is a schismogenesis of identity politics (that I think might be deeply unfruitful when articulated as neoliberal representation games) that is not the same as a schismogenesis theorised as entangled with location.



Martin Marancos RIP

I recently got news that Martin Marancos had passed away. My experience of Martin was that he combined etiquette with a touch of rascal. I never fully understood his background but from what I could gather he grew up in South Africa in a Cypriot Jewish family, spent some time living in London before fleeing some gang violence, finally moving to Cyprus where he married Irene and had a child called Miriam. This complex multi sited heritage gave me some special sense of solidarity with Martin, even if it he tended to dismiss this in conversation as he wrestled with his ideal of being a gentleman.

Growing up Martin had played an important role at key points in my development. My parents were good friends with him and his wife Irene, as well as our neighbor Suzy being a shared friend, and out of this came his offer to be my first employer at age 12. I worked at the weekends on his boat The Neptune as a general waiter and sailor boy ferrying around food, ropes and pints to tourists on board. The Neptün had originally shipped marble from the Turkish mainland around the Mediterranean, but Martin had sailed it back to Cyprus and done a remarkable job of restoring and converting it. Martin also came to my bar-mitzvah to help constitute the minyan, which was not an easy task at that time.

Later in life as a doctoral researcher I turned to him as he had co-founded the local bird conservation organization Kuşkor (Save the Birds) and I was studying people hunting these birds. I had found Martin to be very pragmatic and able to grasp both the importance of my social science alongside his self taught ornithology. He proved an important confidante and source of knowledge during this period, as well as he and Irene and their daughter Miriam welcoming me into their house on many an occasion.

I recall sharing many a tipple and cigarette with him on his porch after having partaken of a delightful and elegant dinner he had cooked, whilst we discussed Cypriot matters and I relayed stories from my fieldwork with hunters. I will miss Martin, but look forward to checking in with his family soon and keeping his story alive, one of synchretic crosslocations.

DDT narratives

“As a society we use narratives to organize our shared past into a beginning, middle, and end. The stories we tell over and over again, like that of DDT, explain how we arrived at the present, and they point to a hoped-for future… we pick and choose from what happened in order to build our great narratives of nation and identity… In so doing we throw out the pieces that don’t fit and come to believe there is only one true past… If this manner of storytelling is a human inevitability, then perhaps we should learn to recognize the ways selective memory shapes so many of the narratives that tell us who we think we are.” (Source)

The author of this quote tells a fascinating history of DDT by adding observations not included in the dominant grand narrative of DDT. This does not deny some of the more famous observations used in this grand narrative, but by adding in other forgotten points it breaks open this grand narrative and identifies it more as an exercise in national storytelling rather than anything else.

The author then challenges us by implying that it is inevitable that ‘as a society we’ get stuck in one dimensional grand narratives. Fortunately we do not all like in US America and belong to some mythical singular society that author tacitly assumes of their readers. In which case I would say that kind of storytelling is not an inevitability.

I think it can be done otherwise by storytelling DDT through focusing on locations rather than national identity, combined with an approach to history as a set of dialogues and associated evidence, combined with attention to the subaltern. Understanding the work of Mehmet Aziz is a starting point I have picked to go about something like that.


Today I officially started work in Finland. I will be working with Sarah Green using her idea of Animal Crosslocations. Sarah explained to me how her background in studying borders brought her around to focusing on locations, by contrast to identity and conflict which are the usual topics of studies on borders. And that over time animals had emerged as a  key focus. My understanding of Animal Crosslocations is that it emphasizes studying why and how animals are found in certain locations, what the connections and separations are between these locations, the effects of animals being in these locations and the stories told that explain these constellations of locations.

So what are the possible implications of this topic of study?

When I conducted doctoral research I looked at how the institutionalization of  recreational hunting in Northern Cyprus created a social a material infrastructure of sovereignty. Where recreational hunting cultivated belonging in a certain place as part of a wider international order. Part of this was the practice of attempting to control the reproduction of animals, specifically those that people hunted and those considered pests. Those that belonged in the hunting landscape and those that did not.

This led to multidisciplinary research into unwanted animals (pests, invasives etc). I started researching the harm associated with unwanted animals, how they were were not seen to belong, and claims to effective management of them. In short the implication of Animal Crosslocations perspective is to better understand how animals are being located physically and socially in a particular constellation of locations, the inordinate amount of labour and (paternalistic) care that goes into reproducing these constellations and whether they are resilient and just.

After my meeting with Sarah I went to lunch and stumbled across a recent blog post about the two different gods associated with the name Pluto. This brought to my attention the juxtaposition between spaces of flows (market) and spaces of places (state). I think this juxtaposition helps provide an interesting (if old) political and academic clarity around the idea of Crosslocations. In Crosslocations there is a recognition that flows and places are not oppositional forces (e.g. market vs state), but work in particular constellations that reinforce each other. Despite me considering this a somewhat old point, the academic and public discourse on ‘regulating the market’ vs ‘austerity and shrinking the state’ continues apace (one only need look at Finnish politics). But this is just a mythical reproduction of this opposition between market and state, long pointed out in anthropology and reinforced by the idea of Crosslocations.

In any case, what is more important I think is that the idea of Crosslocations (especially Animal Crosslocations) ecologises these market-state constellations. It does this by recognizing that whilst money is increasingly flowing across locations whilst people are increasingly kept in place, there are also animal crosslocations intersecting this.  Where animals, their micro-hitchhikers, and their ecological assemblages provide new challenges, resistances and opportunities for existing locating regimes. But also for new possible constellations to emerge.

So at this moment, as Pluto dances between zodiac constellations, and I join a new research environment at Helsinki called RESET (focused on resilient and just constellations), the question that arises is not one of flows vs places, but what flows and what places are resilient and just? And what are the crosslocational logics involved? As Pluto’s constellation changes, what might it mean?

Tervetuloa! Welcome!

  • This blog is an accompaniment to my (Avi’s) research project on Animal Crosslocations as part of RESET. The project is on Mosquito Crosslocations and Participatory Evaluations of Mosquito Control Interventions.
  • Animal Crosslocations is an idea devised by Prof. Sarah Green and the RESET environment with Prof. Meri Kulmala is about resilient and just socioecological change.
  • On this blog I (Avi) share raw thoughts and intriguing encounters written up on the go giving vulnerable insight into the iterative process of this research toward the aim of changing the state of mosquito associated disease interventions.
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