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Of Plantations and Pesticides: Sexual Politics in Martinique

Thursday Lecture Series

dateOctober 10, 2013 timeThursday, 12:15pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
Cartoon cel of person in gas mask and other personal protective equipment speaking in French

Agard-Jones's talk focused on Martinique, a French territory in the Caribbean, and its narratives about the origins of gender transgression and same-sex desire, which have shifted recently to include a story about their relationship to pesticide contamination on the island’s banana plantations. As a source of rising levels of estrogen-like chemicals in the environment, the pesticide chlordécone has been linked to both male infertility and prostate cancer.

Concerns about the effects of this contamination have been heightened by uncertainty about the range of its impacts, and popular responses have included panic about male effeminacy and intersex births as well as critiques of the postcolonial dynamics that drive uneven exposure. Drawing from 20 months of fieldwork on the island, this talk explored how the paradigmatic narrative about the origins of gendered forms of sociality in the Black Atlantic—violent relations under slavery— are being transformed through the transnational travels of an hormone-altering pesticide.