Chimeric Globalism: GMOs, Global Health, and Lively Ethics
My ethnography of dengue has led to further research on the application of genomic technologies for global health. Since 2009, I have been studying the “product development partnerships” that produce genetically modified viruses and mosquitoes with applications for dengue control. Such partnerships hinge on an unprecedented marriage of bench research, philanthropic grants, and corporate pharmaceutical marketing. The prominence of venture and investment capital in these partnerships has sparked debate among dengue experts, many of whom remain skeptical of for-profit science.
My study of "chimeric globalism" contributes to critical scholarship on the relationship between scientific re-constructions of biological life, the discourse of environmental sustainability, and entrepreneurial capitalism.
Through ethnographic research on the rollout of these technologies, I am exploring the possibility that the rise of what I call “global health GMOs” induces a three-way conflict. The concept of a knowable, manageable, and singular human life that undergirds global health appears to clash with the relational and contingent understanding of life that drives contemporary biotechnical capitalism, on one hand, and global environmentalism, on the other.
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About the Research Sites
This project began as an extension of my Nicaragua research, in the laboratories of the Ministry of Health. It has since led to fieldwork within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Puerto Rico and global health and dengue-related conferences in Cuba and the USA. As the project develops, I anticipate further study in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Nicaragua, as well as the various sites across the globe in which vaccine and GM mosquito research take place.