Among the public health community, ‘all except malaria’ is often shorthand for neglected tropical diseases. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's cause célèbre, malaria receives a tremendous amount of funding, as well as scientific and policy attention. Malaria has, however, divergent biological, behavioural and socio-political guises; it is multiply implicated in the environments we inhabit and in the ways in which we inhabit them. The malaria that focuses our attention crops up in the back alleys of Dar es Salaam, brought into being by local labour and municipal governance – a version of malaria that, we argue, is increasingly excluded in current eradication campaigns. This article considers the cycles of public health amnesia, memory and neglect that construe the parasitological exchange between man and mosquito. It begins by exploring the political concerns and technical capacities that have transformed malaria into a global enemy. Combining these historical accounts with ethnographic material, we suggest how malaria is disentangled from or conflated with particular places. Ultimately, our aim is to reflect upon the relationship between scale of malaria control and its social consequence, attending to the actors and relations that fall outside of contemporary global public health policy.