René Umlauf

René UmlaufNetwork Member

René’s research focuses on conceptual and methodological implications of technological change. He is particularly interested in the question of what role tests and testing procedures – of different scale and scope and beyond medical testing – play for the production of multiple forms of evidence and how they shape both macro- and micro-levels of technological and infrastructural integration. In his work on health-, laboratory- and humanitarian-infrastructures he connects this line of inquiry to the broader political, cultural as well as historical encounters between ‘old’ and ‘new’ modes of knowing and doing things.

After receiving his PhD in sociology from the University of Bayreuth in 2015 he worked as a post-doc at the Department of Anthropology at Martin-Luther University Halle (until 2019), where I also became part of the LOST research group. Since 2020 René joined the Department of Sociology at Leipzig University where he started a project on humanitarian drone infrastructures which is part of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 1199): “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition”.

Current position
Postdoctoral Researcher
University affiliation
University of Leipzig


“Off the grid”: Infrastructures, processes of spatialization and drones in Africa

Based on the increasing use of so called civil drones, the project examines new spatial formats that emerge through the development, testing and translation of new technical infrastructures in Africa. Although promoted as light off-grid technologies drones are complex technical systems that combine elements of remote logistics, mass audiovisual data recording and other smart technologies, thereby linking territorial and non-territorial spatial formats. The project explores how the increased use of and reliance on drone infrastructures is accompanied by a simultaneous increase and decrease in the socio-technical significance of specific localities. As a consequence, the emergence of air-space infrastructures in low-resource and humanitarian contexts will be analyzed as a paradigm shift in the nexus of nation-building and infra-structuring, within which older notions of nation-state driven infrastructure development and penetration of national territories are partly abandoned.


  • Umlauf, René (2021) "Zur technischen Krisenhaftigkeit der Corona-Krise." in Jahrbuch für Technikphilosophie, Nomos Verlag, 337-341.
  • Umlauf, René (2021) "‘Silicon health’ for Africa: Understanding the rise and impact of drone logistics." in Somathosphere.
  • Umlauf, René (2020) "'Give work, not aid': Digitale Fabrikarbeit in Norduganda." in Berliner Blätter: Ethnographische und ethnologische Beiträge zum Thema: „Digitale Arbeitskulturen: Rahmungen, Effekte, Herausforderungen", 82. Panama Verlag.
  • Umlauf, René (2018) "'Dormant parasites’: Testing beyond the Laboratory in Uganda’s Malaria Control Program." in Experimentation beyond the laboratory: New perspectives on technology in society , edited by Ibo van de Poel and Lotte Alsveld. London, New York: Routledge.
  • Umlauf, René and Sung-Joon Park (2017) "Stock-Outs! Improvisations and Processes of Infrastructuring in Uganda’s HIV/Aids and Malaria Programmes." in Global Public Health 1692 (December): 1–14. →
  • Umlauf, René (2017) "Mobile Labore: Zur Organisation und Diagnose von Malaria." Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.
  • Umlauf, René (2017) "Precarity and Preparedness: Non-Adherence as Institutional Work in Diagnosing and Treating Malaria in Uganda." in Medical Anthropology 36 (5): 449-463.
  • Umlauf, René (2017) "An Option with no Choice? The Role of Preventive Technologies for (Dis-)Locating a Malaria Epidemic." in AllegraLaboratory Thematic Week. Medical Technologies and Infrastructure: Mobilities and (Dis-)Connectivities , edited by Hansjörg Dilger and Dominik Matthes. →
  • Hopkins, H., J. Cunningham, M. Gatton, I. González, S.Kibira, D. Kyabayinze, M. Mayxay, R. Umlauf (2017) "Prototype positive control wells for malaria rapid diagnostic tests: Prospective evaluation of implementation among health workers in Lao PDR and Uganda." in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 96 (2): 319-329. →
  • Umlauf, René, Dieter Neubert and Uli Beisel (2017) "Innovationen in afrikanischen Gesundheitssystemen: Die Einführung von diagnostischen Schnelltests in der Malariakontrolle." in Spektrum, Hochschulschrift der Universität Bayreuth.
  • Beisel, Uli, René Umlauf, Eleanor Hutchinson, and Clare I. R. Chandler (2016) "The complexities of simple technologies: Re-imagining the role of rapid diagnostic tests in Malaria control efforts." in Malaria Journal 15 (1): 64.
  • Umlauf, René and Uli Beisel (2016) "Translating Global Health Technologies: Diagnostic Spaces between Standardization and Adaptation in Uganda’s Malaria Control Program." in Working Papers of the Priority Programme 1448 of the German Research Foundation Nr. 20, Leipzig and Halle.
  • Park, Sung-Joon, and René Umlauf (2014) "Caring as existential insecurity: Quarantine, care, and human insecurity in the Ebola crisis." in Somatosphere, November 24. →
  • Höhne, Stefan, and René Umlauf (2014) "Die Akteur-Netzwerk Theorie: Zur Vernetzung und Entgrenzung des Sozialen." in Theorien in Raum- und Stadtforschung: Eine Einführung , edited by Jürgen Oßenbrügge and Anne Vogelpohl, 203-222. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot.
  • Umlauf, René (2009) "Fabrikarbeit und die Disziplinierung der Arbeiter." Saarbrücken: AV Akademikerverlag.