Co-producing Social Problems and Scientific Knowledge. Chagas Disease and the Dynamics of Research Fields in Latin America

Part of the Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook book series (SOSC, volume 29)


I will show in this chapter how the joint constructions of scientific knowledge and social problems operate in a complex and polymorphic way by presenting selected episodes from the history of Chagas disease in Argentina (and to some extent in other Latin American countries). I will trace the process in which Chagas disease was co-produced as a public and a scientific problem in the course of the twentieth century, from its identification as a disease with its pathogenic agent until its most recent reformulation through molecular biology and biotechnology. This case will allow me to analyze the emergence of new local research fields, taking into account the mutual influence of research and politics: While researchers in the concerned fields ‘create’ new (social and biological) entities that influence local public problems, they are themselves affected by the political use of the produced knowledge and, therefore, adapt their discourse and practices to fit in with public S&T policies. At the same time, the scientific elites are engaged in international scientific cooperation and in networks with colleagues from developed countries, who are interested in their knowledge products but not in their local concerns.


Scientific Knowledge Social Issues Peripheral Context Globalization Scientific Disciplines Latin America Chagas Disease 


  1. Abir-Am, P. 2000. Research schools of molecular biology in the United States, United Kingdom, and France: National traditions or transnational strategies of innovation? Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  2. Agüero, F. 2003. EST and GSS sequencing in Trypanosoma cruzi. Buenos Aires: UNSAM.Google Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, P. 1997. L’usage social des Sciences. Paris: Éditions de l’INRA.Google Scholar
  4. Burachik, M.S., and P.L. Traynor. 2002. Analyses of a national biosafety system: Regulatory policies and procedures in Argentina, Country Report 63. The Hague: ISNAR.Google Scholar
  5. Collins, H., and R. Evans. 2002. The third wave in science studies: Studies of expertise and experience. Social Studies of Science 32(2): 235–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coutinho, M. 1999. Ninety years of chagas disease: a success story at the periphery. Social Studies of Science 29(4): 519–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cukierman, H. 2007. Yes, nós temos Pasteur: Manguinhos, Oswaldo Cruz e a História da Ciência no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Relume-Dumará-Faperj.Google Scholar
  8. Da Silveira, J.M., I. Carvalho Borges, and A. Ojima. 2009. The analysis of agricultural biotechnology regulation process in Brazil. Paper presented at ISNIE 2009 congress (International Society for New Institutional Economics), Berkeley.Google Scholar
  9. DNDi (Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative). 2006. DNDi annual report 2006. Geneva: DNDi.Google Scholar
  10. El-Sayed, N., et al. 2005. The genome sequence of Trypanosoma cruzi, etiologic agent of Chagas disease. Science 309: 409–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fornaciari, G., et al. 1992. Chagas’ disease in Peruvian Inca mummy. The Lancet 339(8785): 128–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gaudillière, J.-P. 1996. Molecular biologists, biochemists, and messenger RNA: the birth of a scientific network. Journal of the History of Biology 29: 417–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gusfield, J. 1981. The culture of public problems: Drinking-driving and the symbolic order. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hurtado de Mendoza, D. 2005. Autonomy, even regional hegemony: Argentina and the “hard way” toward its first research reactor (1945–1958). Science in Context 18(2): 285–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jasanoff, S. 1990. The fifth branch: Science advisors as policymakers. Boston: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Jasanoff, S. 2004. The idiom of co-production. In States of knowledge: The co-production of science and the social order, ed. S. Jasanoff, 2–12. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Knorr-Cetina, K. 1981. The manufacture of knowledge: An essay on the constructivist and contextual nature of science. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kreimer, P. 1998. Understanding scientific research on the periphery: Towards a new sociological approach? EASST Review 17(4): 17–29.Google Scholar
  19. Kreimer, P. 2010a. La recherche en Argentine: entre l’isolement et la dépendance. Cahiers de la recherche sur l'éducation et les savoirs 9: 115–138.Google Scholar
  20. Kreimer, P. 2010b. Ciencia y Periferia. Nacimiento, muerte y resurrección de la biología molecular en la Argentina. Aspectos sociales, políticos y cognitivos. Buenos Aires: EUDEBA.Google Scholar
  21. Kreimer, P., and L. Levin. 2013. Mapping trends and patterns in S&T Cooperation between the European Union and Latin American countries based on FP6 and FP7 projects. In Mapping and understanding science and technology collaboration between Europe and Latin America, ed. J. Gaillard and R. Arvanitis, 79–106. Paris: Editions des archives contemporaines.Google Scholar
  22. Kreimer, P., and L. Levin. Forthcoming. Latin American Scientific Participation in European Programs. Globalization or neo-colonialism? Revue Française de Sociologie 56Google Scholar
  23. Kreimer, P., and M. Lugones. 2003. Pioneers and victims: The birth and death of Argentina’s first molecular biology laboratory. Minerva 41: 47–69.Google Scholar
  24. Kreimer, P., and H. Thomas. 2006. Production des connaissances dans la science périphérique: l’hypothèse CANA en Argentine. In La société des savoirs. Trompe-l’œil ou perspectives? ed. J.B. Meyer and M. Carton, 143–167. Paris: L’Harmattan.Google Scholar
  25. Kreimer, P., and J. Zabala. 2007. Chagas disease in Argentina: Reciprocal construction of social and scientific problems. Science Technology & Society 12(1): 49–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kropf, S. 2009. Carlos Chagas, um cientista do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Fiocruz.Google Scholar
  27. Latour, B. 2000. On the partial existence of existing and nonexisting objects. In The coming into being of scientific objects, ed. L. Gaston, 247–269. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  28. Levin, M. 1999. Contribution of the Trypanosoma cruzi Genome Project to the understanding of the pathogenesis of Chagas disease. Medicina 59(Suppl. II): 18–24.Google Scholar
  29. Lima, N.T., and M.-H. Marchand (eds.). 2005. Louis Pasteur & Oswaldo Cruz. Rio de Janeiro: Editora FIOCRUZ/Fundação BNP Paribas-Brasil.Google Scholar
  30. Mazza, S. 1939. Diagnóstico: Métodos de diagnóstico de la enfermedad de Chagas; valor y oportunidad de cada uno. In Actas y Trabajos del VI Congreso Nacional de Medicina, Córdoba, 16–21 Oct 1938, Tomo III, 157–159.Google Scholar
  31. Oteiza, E. 1992. La Política de investigación científica y tecnológica argentina: historia y perspectivas. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina.Google Scholar
  32. Plotkin, M., and E. Zimmermann (eds.). 2012. Los saberes del Estado. Buenos Aires: Edhasa.Google Scholar
  33. Pyenson, L. 1985. Cultural imperialism and exact sciences: German expansion overseas, 1900–1930. New York: P. Lang.Google Scholar
  34. Romaña, C. 1953. Panorama epidemiológico de la enfermedad de Chagas en la Argentina a través de investigaciones sistemáticas. Primera Conferencia Nacional de Enfermedad de Chagas, 25–27 June 1953, 199–204. Buenos Aires.Google Scholar
  35. Romaña, C., and F. Cossio. 1944. Formas crónicas cardíacas de la enfermedad de Chagas. Anales del Instituto de Medicina Regional 1(1): 9–92.Google Scholar
  36. Rosembaum, M.B., and J. Alvarez. 1955. The electrocardiogram in chronic chagasic myocarditis. American Heart 50: 492–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stent, G. 1968. That was the molecular biology that was. Science 160: 390–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stepan, N. 1981. Beginnings of Brazilian science. New York: Science History Publications.Google Scholar
  39. Velho, L., and O. Pessoa Jr. 1998. The decision-making process in the construction of the synchrotron light national laboratory in Brazil. Social Studies of Science 28(2): 195–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. WHO/TDR. 2005. Reporte del grupo de trabajo científico sobre la enfermedad de Chagas. Accessed July 2014.
  41. Worboys, M. 1993. Tropical diseases. In Companion encyclopaedia of the history of medicine, ed. W.F. Bynum and R. Porter, 512–536. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Zabala, J. 2010. La enfermedad de Chagas en la Argentina. Investigación científica, problemas sociales y políticas sanitarias. Buenos Aires: Editorial de la UNQ.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CONICET (National Council for Scientific & Technological Research), Center “Science, Technology & Society”Maimonides UniversityBuenos AiresArgentina

Personalised recommendations