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STUCK IN RUINS, OR UP AND COMING? THE SHIFTING GEOGRAPHY OF URBAN PUBLIC HEALTH RESEARCH IN KISUMU, KENYA

Abstract
ABSTRACT

Since the Second World War, the Kenyan city of Kisumu has been an important site of medical research and public health interventions – on malaria and other vector-borne diseases, and lately on HIV and related infections. This article compares the work and lives of two generations of local workers in public health research, each central to science in the city at their time: staff of the Ministry of Health's Division of Vector Borne Disease (DVBD) in the decades after independence, and temporary employees of the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in its collaboration with the US government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the early twenty-first century. Against the backdrop of changes to the city, which stagnated during the 1970s and 1980s, became an epicentre of the East African AIDS epidemic, and underwent an economic boom of sorts from the late 1990s – at least partly driven by HIV research and intervention programmes – the article examines the spaces and movements of health research workers, and their experience of the city in time. The now elderly DVBD workers' accounts are pervaded by memories of anticipated progress and the convergence of life and work in the civic wholes of nation and city; by chagrin about decay; and by nostalgia for lost hopes. Today's young KEMRI/CDC workers' short-term contracts, and the fragmented city they inhabit and study, make for less bounded and predictable spaces and temporalities. Their urban lives and work take shape between remainders and remembrances of past projects, the exhaustion of everyday struggles to make a living and a meaningful life, and the search for new forms of urban order and civic purpose.

RÉSUMÉ

Depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale, la ville kenyane de Kisumu est un haut lieu de la recherche médicale et des interventions en santé publique, notamment pour le paludisme et autres maladies transmises par un vecteur, et plus récemment le VIH et infections associées. Cet article compare le travail et l'existence de deux générations de travailleurs locaux impliqués dans la recherche en santé publique, chacune occupant à son époque un rôle central pour la science dans la ville : des employés du DVBD (Division of Vector Borne Disease, département du ministère de la Santé responsable des maladies transmises par vecteur) durant les décennies qui ont suivi l'indépendance, et des employés temporaires de l'institut de recherche médicale KEMRI (Kenyan Medical Research Institute) dans le cadre de sa collaboration avec le CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, département américain responsable du contrôle et de la prévention des maladies) au début du vingt-et-unième siècle. Avec en toile de fonds les changements intervenus dans la ville qui a connu une période de stagnation dans les années 1970 et 1980 avant de devenir un épicentre de l’épidémie de SIDA en Afrique de l'Est et de connaître un certain essor économique à partir de la fin des années 1990 (insufflé, du moins en partie, par les programmes d'intervention et de recherche sur le VIH), l'article examine les espaces et les mouvements des travailleurs de recherche en santé, et leur expérience de la ville. Les récits des employés du DVBD, aujourd'hui âgés, sont imprégnés de souvenirs de progrès attendu et de convergence de la vie et du travail dans la totalité civique de la nation et de la ville, de dépit face au déclin, et de nostalgie d'espoirs perdus. Les contrats à court terme des jeunes employés du KEMRI/CDC, et la ville fragmentée dans laquelle ils habitent et étudient aujourd'hui, se traduisent par des espaces et des temporalités moins délimités et prévisibles. Leur existence et leur travail dans la ville prennent forme entre ce qu'il reste des projets passés et de ce que l'on en retient, l’épuisement d'une lutte quotidienne pour la subsistance et une existence décente, et la quête de nouvelles formes d'ordre urbain et de sens civique.

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