Tag: chemistry

The Silence before the Silent Spring: Narratives of Modernity and the Silences around the Toxicity of Pesticide Use

Pesticide-use and the control of pest populations with synthetic chemicals are a subset of the history of the “modernization” of agricultural practices. This narrative positions pesticides as an antidote to the food supply problem of the growing world population, but it remains eerily silent on the assault on the entire ecosystem that the continuous use of chemicals entails. These moments of silence in history act as heuristic devices that crystallize aspects of historical production that best expose when and where power gets into the story (Trouillot and Carby, 2015, p.15). The dominant narratives and silences around the question of pesticide exposure point towards the locus of power in the story of the development of modern agriculture. (read more...)

Can Sucro Futures Answer our Biotechnofix Dreams?

What would plastic containers, cosmetic fragrances, and paint thinners be made of if we stopped using petrochemicals? Some plant biologists and biotech companies are suggesting an answer: sugar. Amid calls for people to change the fossil-fuel consumption habits that drive climate change, replacing petroleum-based fuels with renewable ones frequently takes center-stage. However, we often overlook how petrochemicals—chemicals derived from petroleum, the mixture of hydrocarbons extracted from the ground as crude oil—pervade our everyday lives as an invisible ingredient in a vast array of ordinary materials and items, such as plastics, food preservatives, synthetic clothing, tires, and even toothpaste. (read more...)

Life in the Laboratories of Breaking Bad

A Chemical Drama I freely admit to an obsession with Breaking Bad that hasn’t quite come to an end, despite nearly a year having passed since the final episode aired. I am not the only one, apparently, as a new book written from a media studies perspective, Breaking Bad: Critical Essays on the Contexts, Politics, Style and Reception of the Television Series has just come out. While this is no doubt a productive frame to examine Breaking Bad, I am going to argue that Breaking Bad also illustrates key problematics in laboratory studies. If The Wire can become a staple within urban studies, why not Breaking Bad within STS? In what follows, I will sketch a few possible directions, which assume at least a passing familiarity with the plot and characters. WARNING: spoilers ahead! (read more...)