Agribiopolitics: Humans, Plants and the Plantation Condition

Monday, 3 December 2018 - 11:30 am to 2:00 pm
Contact information
Contact person: 
Vincent Mirza
Registration required: 
Cost to attend: 
Free of charge
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Event sponsors: 
Interdisciplinary Research Lab on Cities and Contemporary Urban processes (ILCCUP) School of sociological and anthropological studies (SSAS)

The well-known story of biopolitics tells us that as Europe urbanized in the late 18th and 19th centuries, rulers increasingly began to see the health of human populations as an important object for governance. What the story tends to leave out, however, is the way that urbanization also depended on the expansion of monocrops: the thriving of human populations was dependent on the thriving of non-human food crops, especially grains. As a result, new human diseases were also shadowed by new plant diseases, and a whole other, parallel governmental apparatus, known as phytosanitary regulation, had to be built to manage the problems that this produced for crop health. Using ethnographic and historical materials from Paraguay's phytosanitary history and current soy boom, I argue that we have left plant health out of biopolitical critique to our peril, perpetuating an environmentally devastating, but increasingly entrenched form of extensive agriculture. Properly responding to the increased separation between urban humans and monocropped plants requires a different genealogy, one that I've tentatively called "agribiopolitical."