Misdirection in the margins of malaria elimination methods

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This paper proposes the term misdirection as a process by which attention is diverted from certain scientific approaches in the malaria elimination paradigm to justify specific methodological, scientific and political decisions. Misdirection, as it applies in magic, creates a sort of tunnel vision in which attention is diverted away from any action occurring outside the frame of the current paradigm. A crucial component of this misdirection process is the global standardization of intervention methodologies operating independent of local social contexts and the perceived impossibility to 'localize' such interventions. This conviction requires - and is simultaneously supported by- the production of decontextualized evidence through the application of methodologies aiming at generalizability, in detriment of social context and variability. This process produces pseudo measurements and conclusions that are at the same time real in their adherence to paradigmatically valid methodologies and fake as they either remain empty of empirical significance or whose validity cannot be assessed as we have lost sight of the (local, social, cultural) variation it has decided to ignore. Using the example of research on the effectiveness of bed nets and topical repellents as malaria prevention tools and their expected use within the current paradigm of malaria elimination, we show how the inherent ambiguity of the pseudo allows consequent misdirection processes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Public Health
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)390-400
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Evidence
  • malaria elimination
  • anthropology


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