Work with Wenzel Geissler and his colleagues on issues of health and the environment in Africa

Wenzel and his colleague suggests master’s projects in the anthropology of health and the environment, of protective infrastructures and technologies, and not least of the ambivalent traces of modernity in Africa. Read more about the projects that Wenzel is part of below.

Contact: Paul Wenzel Geissler

Image may contain: Plant, People in nature, Leaf, Botany, Vegetation.

A small-scale vegetable farmer in Western Kenya spraying his crops with pesticide © Miriam Waltz

In sub-Saharan Africa, like in many other parts of the world under the conditions of the Anthropocene, new environmental concerns – from changing weather patterns and temperature rises, to localised effects of mining, farming and industry - interact with emerging health concerns – including epidemics of chronic diseases and cancer, and new infectious disease threats that emerge and re-emerge from human animal interactions.

These evolving relations between human and non-human life forms, and between sociality and ecology, are entangled with historical forms of domination and exploitation - colonial occupation – as well as in past aspirations for growth and betterment linked to projects of technical progress – or short: modernisation.

Together with colleagues and students at SAI and partner universities in East Africa, Wenzel works on several projects that address these issues from different angles, focusing variously on infectious diseases or toxic chemicals, pesticides in agriculture and disease control, and on the way in which present environmental and health interventions, and their future intended and unintended effects, are entangled in the legacies of earlier economic and political, medical and social projects. While issues of health, medicine and ecological concerns are important concerns for people, and for our work, we explore these empirical topics with particular theoretical interest in the relationships between history and anthropology, between humans and more-than-human ecologies, and between materiality and temporality.

We would be happy for master’s students to work with us on any aspect of this field, between environment (or more-than-human health) and human bodies and well-being, and between the past and the present (and the future) in Africa. While we would be open to master’s projects anywhere in sub- Saharan Africa, we have particular supervisory expertise (which also is helpful to gain access and engage with local academic environments) in the following countries: Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and Ghana and Senegal.

To join us, we recommend you explore our project pages, below and get in touch with us with ideas, or to ask questions and get suggestions from us - we are very happy to talk and advise you further. Especially if this short summary sounds abstract or involuted, do come and talk, and you will see it's not.

Learn more about projects related to:



AnthroTox is a project that brings together social anthropologists, historians and STS-scholars, environmental toxicologists and chemists, to understand how environmental, social and political-economic processes shape flows and impacts of anthropogenic toxicants across societies and ecosystems, and to contribute to public debate, policy processes and remedial action.


Epidemic Traces

Epidemic Traces is a project combines social anthropology and medical history to study what remains after epidemics have been controlled. In four sites across Africa, we examine how the leftovers of past epidemics and anti-epidemic measures, from colonial times to the recent past, continue to shape lives and well-being.

Pollution and health

Medical and Environmental Anthropology for East Africa in the 21st century

Medical and Environmental Anthropology for East Africa in the 21st-century (MEA.21) is a collaboration between departments of anthropology and related disciplines at four East African universities - the Universities of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Makerere and Maseno University -, two leading East African medical research institutes – NIMR and KEMRI - and the University of Oslo’s Department of Social Anthropology and Institute of Health and Society. Funded by the NORHED programme (Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development) of NORAD (Norwegian Agency for International Development), MEA.21 is supporting a cluster of cutting-edge research projects, post-graduate training and curriculum development in medical and environmental anthropology. Its focus is the nexus between health and environment that shapes emerging challenges to human and non-human health in the 21st-century.

Agriculture (and other topics)


ANTHUSIA is a multi-disciplinary research project conducted by a consortium of four universities. These are Aarhus University (Denmark), University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom), University of Leuven (Belgium) and University of Oslo (Norway). The consortium also collaborates with numerous non-academic and academic partner organizations with expertise in a variety of different human security issues in Africa that will contribute to the Early Stage Researchers' training and the project’s impact and dissemination.


Epidemics and African Health Systems: Covid-19 in Kenya

This project addresses an urgent issue in global health: the response of African health systems to the Covid-19 pandemic. As Covid-19 creates medical and economic havoc the world over, it is highlighting the vital role of robust national health systems. We need to understand forms of resilience as well as fragilities in health systems as they respond to emerging epidemics. We also need to understand how epidemic interventions relate to people’s lives. Using ethnographic methods combined with public health and epidemiology, our project will produce vital knowledge of the intersection between Covid-19 and the Kenyan health system, from the perspectives of those working within and using it.



PhD student Samwel Ntapanta working as a scrap metal and used electronics collector in Dar es Salaam © Samwel Ntapanta


Published Feb. 11, 2022 1:33 PM - Last modified Feb. 11, 2022 1:33 PM