The mosquito's umwelt, or one monster's standpoint ontology

Ian G.R. Shaw, John Paul Jones, Melinda K. Butterworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Mosquitoes are able to vector malaria and other diseases across the planet, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Not only is this a challenging management problem, we also find it to be underlined by an important philosophical problem, namely: the impossibility of controlling "life". Influential Estonian biologist Jakob von Uexküll wrote that every creature on Earth, from sea urchins to spiders, lives within a unique sphere of existence called an "umwelt", or "surrounding world". The umwelt defines the specificity of relations shared between an organism and its environment. Using this concept we complement existing work on monstrous natures in geography by arguing that "monstrosity" arises in the excesses and discontinuities between the mosquito's umwelt and the human efforts that seek to eliminate it. This finding arises from fieldwork undertaken with public health and vector control officials in the US state of Arizona over several years. Their focus on reducing mosquito breeding sites suggests the complex and emergent spatialities of the monstrous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-267
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Deleuze
  • Monster
  • Mosquito
  • Standpoint ontology
  • Uexküll
  • Umwelt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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