Biology Drift 25, Rm. 101 Organized Session
24 Jul 2019 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190724T0900 20190724T1145 Europe/Amsterdam Beyond Eradication: Global Entomological Narratives

Most histories of entomology have analyzed insect eradication strategies in Europe, the U.K. and the U.S.A. This session brings together scholars conducting new research on twentieth-century entomology in multiple places, many of them settler societies: provincial China, U.S.S.R., Malaysia, Kenya and Argentina. These studies reveal how insect population management was entangled with new visions of anthropogenic 'natural' and agricultural landscapes, pastoral indigenous peoples' perceptions and activities, and the development of global networks of like-minded entomologists. Alejandro Martinez analyzes perceptions of 'natural' insect control as part of creating 'balanced' ecological landscapes in early-20th century Argentina. Yubin Shen explores the multi-national network of entomologists (mostly U.S.-China) that created the Jiangsu Provincial Bureau of Entomology in the 1920s. Sabine Clark tells the story of cautiously-applied locust control measures in Kenya after 1945, highlighting Kenyan herdsmen's concerns about their cattle being poisoned. Marin Coudreau analyzes the entanglement of insect management regimes with militarized forced migrations and state management of the agricultural peasantry in the late Russian empire-early Soviet Union. Aaron Van Neste details an entomologist's importation of the African palm weevil from Cameroon to Malaysia as a palm-tree pollinator in the 1970s-80s, and the novel multi-species ecologies and labor histories that were generated as a result. Together these five case studies show how both non-scientific workers and global networks of entomologists helped to shape (and sometimes subverted) visions and transformations of natural and agricultural landscapes in South America, Africa, eastern Europe and Asia.

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Drift 25, Rm. 101 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

Most histories of entomology have analyzed insect eradication strategies in Europe, the U.K. and the U.S.A. This session brings together scholars conducting new research on twentieth-century entomology in multiple places, many of them settler societies: provincial China, U.S.S.R., Malaysia, Kenya and Argentina. These studies reveal how insect population management was entangled with new visions of anthropogenic 'natural' and agricultural landscapes, pastoral indigenous peoples' perceptions and activities, and the development of global networks of like-minded entomologists. Alejandro Martinez analyzes perceptions of 'natural' insect control as part of creating 'balanced' ecological landscapes in early-20th century Argentina. Yubin Shen explores the multi-national network of entomologists (mostly U.S.-China) that created the Jiangsu Provincial Bureau of Entomology in the 1920s. Sabine Clark tells the story of cautiously-applied locust control measures in Kenya after 1945, highlighting Kenyan herdsmen's concerns about their cattle being poisoned. Marin Coudreau analyzes the entanglement of insect management regimes with militarized forced migrations and state management of the agricultural peasantry in the late Russian empire-early Soviet Union. Aaron Van Neste details an entomologist's importation of the African palm weevil from Cameroon to Malaysia as a palm-tree pollinator in the 1970s-80s, and the novel multi-species ecologies and labor histories that were generated as a result. Together these five case studies show how both non-scientific workers and global networks of entomologists helped to shape (and sometimes subverted) visions and transformations of natural and agricultural landscapes in South America, Africa, eastern Europe and Asia.

Organized by Susan Jones

Pick Your Poison: Insecticides and Locust Control in Colonial KenyaView Abstract
Organized Session 09:00 AM - 09:30 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 07:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 07:30:00 UTC
Literature on the use of insecticides in the tropics after 1945 is preoccupied with the WHO’s Malaria Eradication Programme. This scholarship describes a form of technological hubris in which scientists rushed to deploy the quick fix of DDT on the widest possible scale, fuelled by belief in the power of Western science and buoyed by Allied victory. This paper focuses on trials to control locusts in Kenya after 1945 using synthetic insecticides to tell a different story. It shows that discussion about synthetic insecticides in Britain’s African colonies was not characterised by calls for rapid and far-reaching application of new chemicals. Caution arose in part because of concern about the costs of new programmes. This reflected the weaker economic position of Britain in comparison to the USA, backers of the WHO programme, but more importantly, new locust control substances such as gammexane were evaluated in Kenya against pre-existing ones. In other words, the notion that DDT and related chemicals were wonder weapons of such power that they marked a radical departure from past measures, and rendered all previous insect control methods obsolete, is not borne out by this study. The use of the new insecticides was dependent upon calculations of advantage versus cost in comparison to well-established existing methods. In addition, previous experience with arsenic bait and pyrethrum shaped the testing and deployment of gammexane in significant ways, including evaluation of its toxicity. The perception of the new chemicals as part of a continuum of poisons also informed the attitudes of Kenyan herdsmen. Their suspicion of gammexane was not merely the result of a distrust of Western science and the colonial government, but arose directly from the experience of seeing their cattle poisoned by arsenic bait during the interwar years.
Presenters Sabine Clarke
University Of York, UK
"Beginning of the Entomological Enterprise in China": Jiangsu Provincial Bureau of Entomology and Its Locust Control, 1922-1931View Abstract
Organized Session 09:30 AM - 10:00 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 07:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 08:00:00 UTC
Following the model of the Bureau of Entomology of the United States Department of Agriculture, Jiangsu Provincial Bureau of Entomology was founded in 1922 by western-trained Chinese entomologists with support from agricultural merchants, the provincial government and American specialists. As the first Chinese research institute and governmental agency responsible for pest control, Jiangsu Bureau played an important role in promoting applied entomology in China. This paper discusses origins and development of Jiangsu Bureau within such local, national, and transnational contexts during the 1920s and 1930s. What is more, by focusing on Bureau entomologists’ locust control (in particular the case of adapting the Chinese traditional practice of mobilizing ducks to eliminate locusts), my paper also examines how techniques of western applied entomology were introduced, practiced, modified, and innovated to meet Chinese realities.
Presenters
YS
Yubin Shen
Max Planck Institute For The History Of Science, Berlin
Mechanization by Insect: Multi-Species Ecologies in the Malaysian PlantationoceneView Abstract
Organized Session 10:15 AM - 10:45 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 08:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 08:45:00 UTC
This paper explores the human-assisted transoceanic migration and resettlement of the African Palm Weevil in Malaysia and S.E. Asia, and the consequent environmental and social upheaval that emerged at the intersection of biological symbiosis, neocolonial labor policies, accelerating economic change, and biodiversity heritage. In the 1960s and 70s, as Malaysia was transitioning away from rubber plantations and towards palm oil, British planters conjectured that yields were lower in SE Asia than in the palm's native West Africa due to the absence of a native pollinator. Funded by Unilever, a Pakistani entomologist, R.A. Syed, traveled to Cameroon and received permission from the Malaysian government to import African Palm Weevils, which he had discovered to be obligate pollinators and symbiotes of oil palm. Within a few years of the insects' release, Malaysian palm oil production became both more efficient and economically dominant, and deforestation and biodiversity loss accelerated. The predominantly female human labor force who had been hand-pollinating the palms before found their jobs replaced by an insect, in what can be alternately viewed as a form of biotechnological automation or an alteration of the plantation ecosystem.
Presenters
AV
Aaron Van Neste
Department Of The History Of Science, Harvard University
War and Insect Control in Russia / Soviet Union, 1900-1940View Abstract
Organized Session 10:45 AM - 11:15 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 08:45:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 09:15:00 UTC
The Bolsheviks seized power during the Great War and built their dictatorship through a “continuum of crisis” (Holquist), channeling the violence of total war inward. The forced collectivization of agriculture, an unprecedented and cataclysmic experiment attempting to “modernize” the countryside in the context of a looming “inevitable war,” would trigger another wave of ruthless state violence against the peasantry. I analyze the overlap of armed conflicts and “natural” disasters in the long sequences of war, revolution, and civil war and through the forced collectivization and its aftermaths. Discursive and action categories, regimes of mobilization, and imaginaries and technologies expanded from the waging of war to the management of nature. The porosity between war and natural disasters remained starkest in the margins of the Imperial/Soviet territory. Environmental and rebel threats came to be interrelated in the peripheries, where “militarized” practices of pest control and successive “disinhibiting” (Fressoz) toxic experimentations were adopted in emulation with European colonial practices. The Stalinist “revolution from above” worked as an incubator of the military-scientific experiments and practices of the 1920s.
Presenters
MC
Marin Coudreau
Research Associate At Center For Russian, Caucasian And Central European Studies (CERCEC), Paris.
Locust Pests and Biological Control in Argentina during the First Half of the Twentieth CenturyView Abstract
Organized Session 11:15 AM - 11:45 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 09:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 09:45:00 UTC
In the first decades of the twentieth century, the so-called “mechanical” and "chemical" means were the most frequent answer when locust swarms threatened the crops. Different governments and administrations around the globe resorted either to the use of traps, barriers, fire or to digging up eggs along with poisoned baits or insecticides to eradicate this "natural threat". The history of these means in the fight against locusts -and other agricultural pests- have received much attention from scholars, especially in the case of insecticides. This tendency, however, cast a shadow on the history of the “biological” methods. At the end of the nineteenth and beginnings of the twentieth century, this enterprise was taken up enthusiastically by entomologists and other scientists worldwide and numerous trial introductions were made in the following decades under various degrees of scientific control. This implied a global circulation not only of knowledge, technologies, peoples, and instruments but also of different kind of organisms. The new field presented the promise of a natural, pest-free future for agriculture although the results obtained were controversial, particularly for combating locusts. This perspective underlined that insect pests were a consequence of an ecological/environmental disorder and its solution entailed to restore "the balance of nature". Not just to eradicate or manage a particular "plague" but to control nature. Here I will focus on this subject through the study of different experiences on locust biological control and its narratives in Argentina during the first half of the twentieth century.
Presenters
AM
Alejandro Martinez
Universidad Nacional De La Plata, Argentina
University of York, UK
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Department of the History of Science, Harvard University
Research Associate at Center for Russian, Caucasian and Central European Studies (CERCEC), Paris.
Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina
Prof. Susan Jones
University of Minnesota
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