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Toxic Sensorium

Agrochemicals in the African Anthropocene

Serena Stein and Jessie Luna


Pesticides and toxicity are constitutive features of modernization in Africa, despite ongoing portrayals of the continent as “too poor to pollute.” This article examines social science scholarship on agricultural pesticide expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa. We recount the rise of agrochemical usage in colonial projects that placed African smallholder farmers at the forefront of toxic vulnerability. We then outline prevalent literature on “knowledge deficits” and unsafe farmer practices as approaches that can downplay deeper structures. Missing in this literature, we argue, are the embodied and sensory experiences of African farmers as they become pesticide users, even amid an awareness of toxicity. Drawing on ethnographic research in Mozambique and Burkina Faso, we explore how the “toxic sensorium” of using agrochemicals intersects with farmers’ projects of modern aspiration. This approach can help elucidate why and how differently situated farmers live with pesticides, thereby expanding existing literature on structural violence and knowledge gaps.

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Becoming an Agricultural Growth Corridor

African Megaprojects at a Situated Scale

Serena Stein and Marc Kalina


Agricultural growth corridors (AGCs) have begun proliferating across the actual and policy landscapes of southeastern Africa. Cast as an emerging megaproject strategy, AGCs combine the construction of large-scale logistics (i.e., roads, railways, ports) with attracting investment in commercial agribusiness and smallholder farming. While scholars have long attended to spatial development schemes in the Global South, literature on the rising AGCs of Africa's eastern seaboard has only recently shifted from anticipatory to empirical studies as policy implementation reaches full force. The article reflects on a new crop of studies that confront the problem of tracing policy imaginaries to the people, places, practices, and ecologies shaped by AGC schemes. In contrast to scholarship that accepts corridors as given entities, we explore directions for research that interrogate the grounded yet provisional becoming of these megaprojects. At such sites, the return of high modernist development logics encapsulated by the corridor concept may be questioned.