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Dev World Bioeth. 2019 Mar 19. doi: 10.1111/dewb.12223. [Epub ahead of print]

Tropicality and abjection: What do we really mean by "Neglected Tropical Diseases"?


Neglected tropical diseases are defined operationally as diseases that prevail in "tropical" regions and are under-researched, under-funded, and under-treated compared with their disease burden. By analysing the adjectives "tropical" and "neglected," I expose and interrogate the discourses within which the term "neglected tropical disease" derives its meaning. First, I argue that the term "tropical" conjures the notion of "tropicality," a form of Othering which erroneously explains the disease-prevalence of "tropical" regions by reference to environmental determinism, rather than colonialism and neocolonialism. Second, I examine the way in which this Othering enables the abjection of tropical regions and their peoples, leading to neglect. I recommend that the term "neglected tropical diseases" be more carefully contextualised within health scholarship, education, and policy.


Orientalism; abjection; colonialism; environmental determinism; neglected tropical diseases; tropicality


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