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The Political Ecology of Kidneys in Rural Central America

Authors: Emma Lawlor*, University of Arizona, School of Geography and Development
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Latin America
Keywords: political ecology, health, health geography, Central America, rural geography
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This poster will summarize preliminary research for an ethnographic political ecology of health project centered on kidneys in rural Central America. The kidneys are two small bean-shaped organs that act as the body’s filtering system. Yet, when the kidneys malfunction, serious consequences often result, both in terms of human health and wider socio-politics. In rural Costa Rica and Panama, a close look at the research and treatment of kidney disease, as well as at the daily life of people living with impaired kidneys, puts a number of dynamics into sharp relief. Debates around environmental and agricultural politics, healthcare access, financing, and research, and im/migration are all tied into the high rates of kidney failure in certain agricultural provinces of these two Central American countries. This poster will summarize and contextualize these dynamics as well as move toward theorizing how the study of kidneys in agricultural communities might push health geography and the political ecology of health in new directions.

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