Podcast

Sep 29, 2016

Ep. #35 – Vanessa Agard-Jones

Ep. #35 – Vanessa Agard-Jones

This week’s podcast dives into ‘the chemical turn’ in the human sciences. Dominic and Cymene talk intoxication and wonder whether there’s a drug that could cure patriarchy. Then (9:04) we welcome Prof. Vanessa Agard-Jones from Columbia University to the studio to learn about her fascinating research on toxicity and chemical kinship in Martinique. We hear the story about how the pesticide chlordecone/kepone—a chemical now banned by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants—was introduced to Martinique by the owners of its banana plantations. Widespread use of the pesticide for over a decade has left the island and its citizens living in a plume of toxic contamination even over two decades after the pesticide was finally banned. We discuss the North/South, racial and postcolonial dynamics of Martinique’s situation and how ambient toxicity undermines both the possibility of “eating local” and the idea of political independence. Then Vanessa explains her theoretical approach to chemicals, how she seeks to balance the concerns of old and new materialisms in concepts like “chemical kin/esthesia” and “molecular ethnography.” We talk about vectors and scales of exposure, why she wants to study the body memory of the Caribbean and why she is looking to geology to think about accretion and sedimentation. In closing Vanessa explains why the chemical turn is also a queer turn and why she thinks it should be queerer still. Enjoy! PS For more on the chemical turn and Vanessa’s work, see www.agardjones.org and www.toxicsymposium.org ; PPS “Kepone Factory” is a Dead Kennedys song. Indulge your punk souls here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a41PUZ2oRc