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Palgrave Macmillan

New Wars and Old Plagues

Armed Conflict, Environmental Change and Resurgent Malaria in the Southern Caucasus

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  • Open Access
  • © 2023

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  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

  • Explores how environmental degradation and human displacement caused by war leads to disease outbreaks

  • Offers a new lens to study the Karabkh conflict by focusing on its role in the ensuing malaria outbreak

  • Will assist in predictive modeling for future malaria outbreaks in temperate regions

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Table of contents (6 chapters)


About this book

This Open Access book uses Mary Kaldor’s concept of “New Wars” to explore how ethnic conflict reshaped the social and environmental landscape of the Southern Caucuses following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It relies on remote sensing data and qualitative historical research to explore how armed conflict between non-state actors generated the region’s largest epidemic of P. vivax malaria since the 1960s.  

This book is an important addition to the literature on the Karabakh conflict and conflict studies more broadly because the infectious disease outbreaks associated with warfare often kill more people than the armed conflicts themselves. Warfare itself has also changed dramatically since the collapse of the USSR, and the Karabakh conflict provides an excellent case study of the way  “New Wars” transform the natural and social environment to facilitate outbreaks of preventable disease.  This extended case study will be useful to researchers from a variety of academic disciplines, including medical anthropology, geography, conflict studies, disease ecology, global health and public health.  It also reveals the fragility of twentieth century malaria control in temperate regions and will assist in predictive modeling for future outbreaks.


“Hirschfeld and her colleagues have indebted us all with an agenda-setting, eye-opening book. The epidemiological, ecological and medical dimensions of war, separatism and ethnic conflict have long been overshadowed and neglected. With a fresh and provocative re-examination of the Nagorno-Karabakh case, this outstanding study reveals the symbiosis between ethnic war and frozen conflict on the one hand, and disease dispersion and environmental degradation on the other. The result is a goldmine of insights for social scientists and health practitioners alike. By examining the dynamics between public health and nationalist politics, military operations and environmental destruction, the authors deliver an original, unorthodox look at not just the Caucasus but imperial borderlands and disputed territories globally. An exciting and extraordinary achievement.” (Danilo Mandić, Harvard University)


Authors and Affiliations

  • Department of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, USA

    Katherine Hirschfeld, Brad Brayfield

  • Laboratory of Geo-information Science and Remote Sensing, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands

    Kirsten de Beurs

  • ZLV, Joint Centre Urban Systems, Rm 912, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany

    Ani Melkonyan-Gottschalk

About the authors

Katherine Hirschfeld is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, USA.  Her research focuses on the intersection of IPE (international political economy) and emerging infectious diseases.  She is the author of Health, Politics and Revolution in Cuba since 1898 (Transaction Press 2007) and Gangster-States: Organized Crime, Kleptocracy and Political Collapse (Palgrave Macmillan 2015). Her work has been featured on CNN International, Financial Times Alphaville, The Miami Herald, The Tampa Tribune and a number of other national and international media outlets.  She is active on twitter @tkhirschfeld.

Kirsten de Beurs is a Professor and Chair in the Laboratory of Geo-information Science and Remote Sensing at Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands. She has a background in studying land cover and land use change in Russia and Central Asia. Her research focuses on the analysis of satellite time series to detect, assess and attribute ongoing changes of the terrestrial land surface. She combines field data, non-remotely sensed geospatial data (e.g., census data, population data), and expert opinions to arrive at a plausible and parsimonious explanation for the processes that could produce observed land use patterns..

Brad Brayfield is a PhD candidate in the Health and Human Biology Program in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, USA. He has an MS in Microbiology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he studied the relationship between viral transmission and socio-demographic factors. His research interests encompass the environmental impacts of humans and their consequences on disease emergence. His dissertation will explore human migration during conflict and its influence on disease patterns in the Caucasus.

Ani Melkonyan-Gottschalk is Executive Director of the Centre for Logistics and Traffic at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. Melkonyan-Gottschalk has been active in research and teaching activities in fundamental areas of Sustainable Economies and the transformation frameworks towards sustainable and smart governance since more than fifteen years. She has a specific expertise in sustainable and smart (urban) regions, sustainable supply chain management, food systems and resource nexus, holistic (urban) mobility and logistics systems, digital and innovative business ecosystems and sustainable (inclusive) governance models to function efficiently within the future dynamic environments both in the Global North and Global South.  

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: New Wars and Old Plagues

  • Book Subtitle: Armed Conflict, Environmental Change and Resurgent Malaria in the Southern Caucasus

  • Authors: Katherine Hirschfeld, Kirsten de Beurs, Brad Brayfield, Ani Melkonyan-Gottschalk

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2023

  • License: CC BY

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-031-31142-0Published: 13 June 2023

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-031-31143-7Published: 12 June 2023

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XX, 113

  • Number of Illustrations: 8 b/w illustrations, 17 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Medical Anthropology, Public Health, International Relations, Anthropology, Human Geography, Russian, Soviet, and East European History

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