Here is the abstract for a short talk I will be holding this week:
The notion of political economy traditionally refers to human or ”social” categories, such as capital and labour. However, as increasingly discussed within the social sciences, materials – for instance chemical compounds – need to be brought into this equation. This paper surveys empirical material from a three-year ethnography of farming politics in Sri Lanka, focusing on the ”politico-economic” role played by nitrogen-based fertilisers. It will thus explore how fertiliser is used as a form of political currency in elections, how the circulation of ammonium nitrate is controlled in times of civil war, and how ”overflows” of agribusiness nitrates are investigated by civil society organisations. The common theme in this interrogation is that none of these ”social” processes can be dissociated from the chemical properties of nitrogen. The paper will also juxtapose the well-charted historic emergence of ”capitalism” with the historic emergence of increased circulation and accumulation of nitrogen in biomass.
Feel free to drop by!
Time: 12.00 – 13.00, Thursday 2 February
Place: Chalmers University of Technology, Chemistry building, KC Auditorium