1st Edition

Biotechnology and the Politics of Plants Disciplining Time

By Matt Hodges Copyright 2021
    142 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    142 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Biotechnology and the Politics of Plants explores the mysterious phenomenon of ‘apomixis’, the ability of certain plants to ‘self-clone’, and its potential as a revolutionary tool for agriculture and enhancing food security, that may soon be a reality. Through historical anthropological and ethnographic study, Matt Hodges traces the development of the CIMMYT Apomixis Project, a prominent frontier research initiative, and its reinvention as a leading public-private partnership. He analyzes the fast-moving historical transition from public sector, mixed plant breeding approaches grounded in genetics, to a contemporary era of agricultural biotechnology and genomics where PPPs are a leading format, and explores how social contexts of research shape how knowledge is produced, as well as what remains ‘unknown’, and constrain the development of an ‘Apomixis Technology’. The chapters present an inventive approach informed by the anthropology of time, science and technology studies, and dialogue with the work of Gilles Deleuze, Paul Rabinow, Hannah Arendt, Andrew Pickering, and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. Hodges outlines novel ways of integrating notions of history and becoming, and considers how apomixis offers up an alternative image of thought to theoretical concepts such as the well-known ‘rhizome’. The book makes a valuable contribution to both the growing social scientific literature on genomics and biotechnology, and recent anthropological debates on time and history.

    1. The politics of emergence
    The quest for an Apomixis Technology
    Anthropology and apomixis
    Historical emergence and the sideshadows of frontier research
    Anthropology and the politics of plants

    2. The quest for apomictic maize at CIMMYT
    Apomixis research at ORSTOM
    Redescribing wide hybridization
    Genetics and apomixis
    Wide hybridization and the OCAPo
    The transversality of research heterocultures

    3. Disciplining time within ApoCORN
    The private sector and the neoliberal bioeconomy
    Becoming public-private
    Disciplining plant biomatter and the genomics dispositif
    The promise and peril of an Apomixis Technology
    Conflicts in time within ApoCORN

    4. Epilogue
    Anthropology and the apomictic image of thought
    Frontier research and the politics of plants


    Matt Hodges is a social and historical anthropologist based at the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent, UK. He works on the anthropology of science and technology, and themes of history, time, and the experience of cultural transformation and rupture in rural Europe. This focus extends to the technologies and infrastructures that drive such upheavals, including agricultural biotechnology. Recent work on French radical historiography appeared in Current Anthropology 60(3).