Brown Bag Lecture: Aero-Chemical Statecraft in Colombia (1978–2015)

Lunchtime Lectures
Monday, May 7, 2018
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a Brown Bag Lecture by Juan Felipe Moreno, Cain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Science History Institute.

Between 1978 and 2015 Colombia was the only state in the world to sponsor a systematic program of aerial herbicide spraying with the aim of eradicating illicit plants within the context of the global “war on drugs.” The image of low-flying crop dusters spraying glyphosate on coca fields became iconic of the way in which the “war on drugs” was waged in its Colombian “front.” In this talk I will examine the history of this program, which was carried out with the political and economic support of the United States. I will draw from ethnographic, historical, and archival materials collected during more than three years of fieldwork to conceptualize this program as a novel regulatory and technical form of aero-chemical statecraft. The term aero-chemical statecraft refers to both the systematic deployment of herbicides with the aim of destroying illicit plants and the configuration of a margin of uncertainty for the disputed attribution and potential distribution of harms among the exposed landscapes, legal crops, and human communities that surround the targeted plants. In the talk I will highlight some of the ways in which, within this margin of uncertainty, targeted poor rural communities perceive, experience, debate, and contest the presence of unwanted herbicides in their lives.

About the Speaker

Juan Felipe Moreno is the Cain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Science History Institute. His current project, entitled “Living in Times of Fumigation: The Aero-Chemical State in Southwestern Colombia,” is an ethnographic and historical study of the use of synthetic chemicals for the eradication of illicit crops in Colombia’s war against drugs. Juan Felipe recently obtained his PhD in sociocultural anthropology from Johns Hopkins University. His research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research and Drugs, Security, and Democracy fellowship programs. 


About the Series

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.