Pandemic, Plague, Pestilence and the Tropics: Critical Inquiries from Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences




pandemic, plague, pestilence, epidemics, COVID-19, tropics


The Tropics have long been associated with exotic diseases and epidemics. This historical imaginary arose with Aristotle’s notion of the tropics as the ‘torrid zone’, a geographical region virtually uninhabitable to temperate peoples due to the hostility of its climate, and persisted in colonial imaginaries of the tropics as pestilential latitudes requiring slave labour. The tropical sites of colonialism gave rise to urgent studies of tropical diseases which lead to (racialised) changes in urban planning. The Tropics as a region of pandemic, plague and pestilence has been challenged during the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus did not (simply) originate in the tropics, nor have peoples of the tropics been specifically or exclusively infected. The papers collected in this Special Issue disrupt the imaginary of pandemics, plague and pestilence in association with the tropics through critical, nuanced, and situated inquiries from cultural history, ethnography, cultural studies, science and technology studies, Indigenous knowledge, philosophy, anthropology, urban studies, cultural geography, literature and film analyses, and expressed through distinctive academic articles, poetry and speculative fiction.

Author Biographies

Anita Lundberg, James Cook University, Australia

Associate Professor Anita Lundberg is a cultural anthropologist. Her ethnographies – situated in Bali, Singapore, Malaysia and far Eastern Indonesia – explore the intertwinings of environment and culture through interdisciplinary studies of urban life, the cinematic city, neoliberal higher education, climate change and street art, architecture and a garden of indigenous trees, and a whale hunting village. Anita has won awards and held international fellowships: LIA TransOceanik (CNRS, JCU, Collége de France); The Cairns Institute (TCI); Evans Fellow, Cambridge University, UK; Guest Researcher, Maison Asie-Pacifique, Université de Provence, France; Visiting Fellow, Institute of the Malay World and Civilization, National University Malaysia; and Anthropologist-in-Residence, Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia. She has published extensively in academic journals and edited numerous Special Issues. Anita has also curated exhibitions in NY, LA, Paris and Sydney, and her own research has been exhibited at the Australian National Maritime Museum, the National Art Gallery of Malaysia and Alliance de Française. Anita was a Post-Doctoral Fellow, Cambridge University, UK, she has a PhD in Anthropology, and an MA in Science & Technology Studies. She lives in Bali.

Kalala Ngalamulume, Byrn Mawr College, USA

Associate Professor Dr Kalala Ngalamulume is with History and Africana Studies at Bryn Mawr College in Pennyslvania, U.S.A.  He is the author of several scholarly articles and book chapters on the social history of medicine, disease, and health in Senegal. He is also the author of Colonial Pathologies, Environment and Western Medicine in Saint-Louis-du-Senegal, 1867-1920 (2012), and co-editor with Paula Viterbo of Medicine and Health in Africa: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (2010). He has published in the Journal of African History, Journal of West African History, Cahiers d’Études Africaines, Politique Africaine, History in Africa, African Economic History, Revue de Pédagogie Appliquée, Encyclopedia of African History, and Oxford Bibliographies Online. Kalala has a PhD in History, and an MA in International Affairs.

Jean Segata, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Associate Professor Jean Segata is with the Department of Anthropology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), where he is the director of the NEAAT Centre for Animal, Environmental and Technology Studies. Recently, he was Craig Cogut Visiting Professor for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Brown University. His teaching and research experiences intersect anthropology of science & technology, health, and human-animal-environmental relations. Currently is the PI of the Rede Covid-19 Humanidades MCTI project.

Arbaayah Ali Termizi, University Putra Malaysia

Associate Professor Arbaayah Ali Termizi is with the Department of English, Universiti Putra Malaysia. With a love for theatre, she has taken on the roles of creative advisor / producer of amateur play productions such as Les Misérables (2013), Beauty and the Beast (2013), The Great Gatsby (2014), Gormenghast (2015), Keris Laksamana Bentan (2018) and Zoom-ed: A Musical Showcase (2021) in addition to the staging of several of Shakespeare’s plays prior to 2010. Her PhD thesis entitled Anthony and Cleopatra in the Eighteenth Century: Critical Observation of Shakespeare’s Tragedy (2010) was published as a book, followed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Shakespeare Appropriated in 60 Minutes (2013). In August 2020, another book titled Theatre for Life Workshop: Perspectives and Reflections which she co-edited was published as an initiative to promote an interest in theatre to the wider public in Malaysia. Arbaayah founded Theatre for Life Workshop (TFLW) with the aim to engage the community with pre-staging activities as a means to create awareness in contemporary social issues. She has been invited as a speaker, seminar leader and visiting scholar at both local and international conferences to talk about her work on preserving culture and heritage with theatre as a medium.

Chrystopher J. Spicer, James Cook University, Australia

Dr Chrystopher J. Spicer has written extensively on Australian-Oceania and American literary and cultural studies in a number of books and journal articles. His latest book is Cyclone Country: The Language of Place and Disaster in Australian Literature (McFarland, 2020). Chrystopher is currently a cultural historian and a Senior Research Fellow (Adj) at James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland.


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How to Cite

Lundberg, A., Ngalamulume, K., Segata, J., Termizi, A. A., & Spicer, C. J. (2021). Pandemic, Plague, Pestilence and the Tropics: Critical Inquiries from Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences . ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 20(1), 1–41.