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“And you feel you could touch it with your hand–as if it smoked up from the fat earth, there, everywhere . . . stagnating in the plain like the sultry heat of June.” (Giovanni Verga) [1]


In its century-long quest to eliminate malaria, Italy remodeled its landscape as a technical and economic project, giving rise to a new anthropogenic nature. Medicalizing the population by means of malarial prophylaxis amounted to the application of a biopolitical technology intended to manage Italy’s new citizens, and their environment, as a singular body.[16] Public health served to establish a new territorial order of free circulation that operated beyond the scale of the city. Land reclamation, eucalyptus trees, window screens, quinine distribution, and new towns do not represent a linear evolution, but rather simultaneous strands of an emergent state power and its effect on physical space.


1. Giovanni Verga, “Malaria”, 1883, translated by D. H. Lawrence. 

2. Braudel introduced the concept of ‘longue durée’ to look at history through the lens of long-term factors such as topography and climate. See Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, vol. I (London: Collins, 1972), 23-167.

3. Leonardo Benevolo, The History of the City (London: Scolar, 1980), 755–770. 

4. Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978 (New York: Picador, 2007), 4–23.

5. William H. Smyth, Sketch of the Present State of the Island of Sardinia (London: 1828), 329–337.  

6. Emilio Sereni, Storia del paesaggio agrario italiano (Roma; Bari: Laterza, 2014), 367–368. 

7. The health council reports are held in the Senate’s archives in Rome; collectively, they make for a unique document of the pre-modern State. 

8. Luigi Torelli, Carta della malaria dell’Italia (Firenze: Giuseppe Pellas, 1882). 

9. This point draws on Tom Koch’s analysis of cholera in Disease Maps: Epidemics on the Ground (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). 

10. Eugenia Tognotti, “La Carta Della Malaria d’Italia,” Quaderni internazionali di storia della medicina e della sanità 1, no. 2 (1992): 23–34. 

11. James C. Scott, Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1998), 2. 

12. Marco Armiero, A Rugged Nation: Mountains and the Making of Modern Italy (Cambridge: White Horse, 2011), 36. 

13. Società per gli Studi della Malaria, Istruzioni popolari per difendersi dalla malaria (Rome: 1905). 

14. Frank M. Snowden, The Conquest of Malaria: Italy, 1900–1962 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006), 73–75. 

15. Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 144. 

16. Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collége de France, 1975–76 (New York: Picador, 2003), 244–247.

This text was originally commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Architecture within their online series Take Care. It is part of the long-term research project Terra Infecta, which was developed during a fellowship at Het Nieuwe Instituut and is supported by the Graham Foundation. You can read this text in original layout on the website of the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Delany Boutkan, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Setareh Noorani
Alex Walker