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Nari Senanayake

Research Interests:
health-environment geography
Political Ecology
agrarian livelihoods
feminist geographies
South Asian studies

Ph.D. Geography, The Pennsylvania State University, 2018 

M.A. Geography, University of California, Davis, 2014 

B.A. (Hons I) Political Science and English Literature, The Australian National University, 2009


My research integrates work in health-environment geographies with scholarship, both within and beyond the discipline, on the politics of knowledge, science and expertise. I am particularly interested in how people experience, know, and govern (real and speculative) health risks as well as how these processes shape the production of subjectivities, bodies, and everyday practices of resource use.

My current work examines how new human-environment interactions emerge through encounters with a severe and mysterious form of chronic kidney disease in Sri Lanka’s dry zone. Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology (CKDu) is a mystery illness that not only confounds scientific attempts to explain its cause, but it also evades systems of biomedical classification. Through my work, I zoom in on the daily grind of living in disease hotspots. Specifically, I investigate residents’ search for health in landscapes of disease, disease-related intervention, and intense and ongoing speculation about environmental risk.  

Empirically, I grounded much of my work in an analysis in two ongoing attempts to improve health in CKDu hotspots: 1) large-scale investments in water purification schemes, and 2) the roll-out of a national initiative promoting indigenous and organic rice cultivation as a “long-term solution” to the problem of kidney disease. In each case, I tack back and forth among stories about disease (CKDu); about toxic uncertainty (how science explains or fails to explain the disease); and about health improvement schemes (how state and civil society actors attempt to manage CKDu). Ultimately, my research argues that CKDu serves as a point of entry for understanding how health risks are classified, contested and managed, as well as how these processes rework subjectivities and practices of natural resource use.


Selected Publications:


Senanayake, N. (2022) “We are the living dead” or, the precarious stabilization of liminal life in the presence of CKDu. Antipode, 1-18.


Senanayake, N. (2022)  “Towards a feminist political ecology of health: Mystery kidney disease and the co-production of social, environmental, and bodily difference.” Environment and Planning E, 1-20. 


Senanayake, N. (2021) "Theorising liminal states of health: A spatio-temporal analysis of undiagnosis and anticipatory diagnosis in the shadow of toxic pollution." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 47 (2) 363-377. 


Senanayake, N. (2021) “‘We spray so we can live:’ Agrochemical kinship and struggles for health in dry zone Sri Lanka.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 112(4), 1047-1064.


Senanayake, N. and B. King (2021) “Geographies of Uncertainty” Geoforum 123 (July): 129-135 (published online August 2020).

Senanayake, N. (2021). Searching for CKDu: Mystery kidney disease, differentiated (in) visibility, and contingent geographies of care in dry zone Sri Lanka. Geoforum 123 (July); 173-83

Senanayake, N. (2020). Tasting toxicity: bodies, perplexity, and the fraught witnessing of environmental risk in Sri Lanka’s dry zone. Gender, Place & Culture, 27 (11):1555-1579 

Senanayake, N. & King, B. (2019). Health-environment futures: Complexity, uncertainty, and bodies. Progress in Human Geography, 43(4): 711-728.