Guest Lecture: “Deficient Growth? Hunger, Nutrition and Plant Research in Uganda”

On 07/06/2018 Sandra Calkins (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany) is giving a guest lecture in the colloquium of the Göttingen Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology:

Deficient Growth? Hunger, Nutrition and Plant Research in Uganda

What understandings of health and proper nutrition are articulated with the promotion of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries? What futures do such initiatives envision and for whom? My presentation focuses on ongoing experiments with genetically modified bananas in Uganda that use the fruit as a vehicle to achieve public health goals. I examine how this work in plant science shapes both notions of health and their opposite – deficient health of humans and plants. This I put in conversation with conventional thinking about bananas in central Uganda. There, the banana is not seen as deficient but as fecund and able to grow bodies, person, homesteads, and societies. I argue that expanding our thinking through the banana plant provides a model to think about health as growth – a rhizomatic growth that allows shifting the emphasis from unilineal to multidirectional development. Relocating health to the sites of mundane gardening practices and plant research in Uganda is a way of diversifying our resources for thinking about health beyond the biomedical frame. It enriches our sense of what is at stake for broader understandings of well-being and the creation of healthy futures.

Sandra Calkins is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and a member of the Law, Organization, Science and Technology group at the University of Halle. Her previous work drew on pragmatism and STS to explore connections between indeterminacy, reflexivity and social ordering in northeastern Sudan. Her current project, inspired by STS, more-than-human anthropologies and medical anthropology, examines new linkages between agriculture and public health nutrition in Uganda. She is author of “Who Knows Tomorrow? Uncertainty in Northeastern Sudan” (Berghahn, 2016) and is co-editor of “Disrupting Territories. Land, Commodification and Conflict in Sudan” (James Currey, 2014).