Introduction: Disease reservoirs: from colonial medicine to one health

Matheus Alves Duarte Da Silva*, Oliver French, Frederic Keck, Jules Skotnes-Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The introduction of the special issue “Disease Reservoirs: Anthropological and Historical Approaches” sets out the origins and trajectories of disease reservoir frameworks. First, it charts the emergence and elaborations of the reservoirs concept within and across early 20th-century colonial contexts, emphasising its configuration within imperial projects that sought to identify, map and control spaces of contagion among humans, animals, and pathogens. Following this, it traces the position the reservoir framework assumed within post-colonial practices and imaginaries of global health, with particular reference to the emerging infectious disease paradigm. The introduction shows that, in contemporary usages, while the concept continues to frame animals, humans and their bodies as containers of previously identified pathogens, it also emphasises the imperative of anticipating as-of-yet unknown diseases, harboured in the bodies of certain animals, through networks and techniques of surveillance. Consequently, the introduction argues that the notion of disease reservoirs remains intimately intertwined with concerns over the classification, organization, and management of peoples, pathogens, animals, and space. Finally, the introduction outlines the seven papers that form this special issue, stressing how they dialogue, complement, and challenge previous historical and anthropological approaches to disease reservoirs, with an eye to opening up new avenues for cross-disciplinary exploration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-324
Number of pages14
JournalMedical Anthropology
Issue number4
Early online date31 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2023


  • Colonial medicine
  • Emerging diseases
  • Global health
  • One health
  • Reservoirs
  • Zoonosis


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