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Luisa Reis-Castro – The More-than-Human Politics of Transgenic Mosquitoes in Brazil [Zoom Only] | GES Colloquium

March 5 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

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GES Colloquium - March 5, 2024, 12 PM - Zoom only Caring for the Enemy, Killing the Ally: The More-than-Human Politics of Transgenic Mosquitoes in Brazil Luísa Reis-Castro, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Southern California

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Caring for the Enemy, Killing the Ally: The More-than-Human Politics of Transgenic Mosquitoes in Brazil Zoom

Luisa Reis-Castro, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California
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This talk, based on ethnographic research with scientists and technicians working with transgenic mosquitoes in Brazil, examines the class, gender, and regional issues present in the efforts to transform the mosquito from a “problem” into a “solution.”

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The Aedes aegypti mosquito, known as the vector for Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses, has historically been targeted by public health campaigns as an enemy to be eliminated. However, new strategies, such as the transgenic approach, biologically modify the A. aegypti so that they can be deployed to control their own population—here, mosquito breeding and mating are operationalized as an insecticide. In this case, the insect must be simultaneously a friend and an enemy, cared for and killed, and it must establish encounters and nonencounters.

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork at a “biofactory” in the northeast of Brazil dedicated to mass-producing these transgenic mosquitoes, this article investigates the new forms of labor and value produced through these contrasting human-mosquito relations. The author also examines how the project is implemented within the broader geopolitics of experimentation and more-than-human gendered conceptions. Analyzing the multispecies relationships engendered under the premise that it is possible to produce nonencounters, she identifies the historical conditions and promissory claims of transforming the A. aegypti ’s reproductive capacity into labor for killing. Such recasting yields what the author calls the “nonencounter value” within the scientific remaking of mosquitoes, their becoming and being.

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Speaker Bio

Dr. Luísa Reis-Castro is an Assistant Professor in Anthropology. Reis-Castro’s research broadly explores the social, cultural, political, and historical dimensions of scientific knowledge about human-animal relations, particularly when harm to humans is involved, as seen with mosquitoes transmitting pathogens. Her first project investigates techno-scientific projects in Brazil that, rather than fight against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, work to harness the insect to tackle the viruses it is known to transmit (Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever). By using ethnographic and historical research methods, she explores what these projects can tell us about the geopolitics of knowledge production in an interdependent, unequal world increasingly affected by human activity. She received her PhD from the Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

GES Colloquium is jointly taught by Drs. Jen Baltzegar and Dawn Rodriguez-Ward, who you may contact with any class-specific questions. Colloquium will be held in person in the 1911 Building, room 129, and live-streamed via Zoom.

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March 5
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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