Please join us for the next UCD CHOMI seminar on March 24th at 4.15pm. Dr Jen Keating (UCD) will discuss Bioprospecting, global commodities and the more-than-human roots of empire in Russian Central Asia, 1880s-1916.
The environmental history of the Russian imperial rule in Central Asia has long focused on the region as a commodity frontier, noting the empire’s quest to manage water and to secure a domestic source of cotton, the ‘white gold’ of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Yet our explorations of cotton have arguably obscured numerous varied and more complex interchanges. This paper revisits the commodity frontier by exploring some unlikely global monopolies that revolved around bioprospecting – the exploitation of ‘natural’ resources for their biochemical uses in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries. Developing a fragmented history of an interconnected world, this research draws on material from the forthcoming book On arid ground: Political ecologies of empire in Russian Central Asia. It reveals how plants and animals that were valued for their medicinal role in sustaining basic livelihoods and communities were one battleground where local practices, traditions and alternative understandings of value faced off against the modernising impositions of empire. Tracing cultivation, production and circulation chains from the steppes and riverbanks of Central Asia to the laboratories of Merck and the pig farms of the United States in turn uncovers intertwined ecologies as previously unfamiliar forges of empire in the heart of Eurasia.
To attend online please register here https://ucd-ie.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_zeXUYY2gSSmqCMwXG6eXbw
You can find the full research seminar programme here: https://www.ucd.ie/chomi/research/sems/