Gabrielle Robbins

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Massachusetts Inst. of Technology

Grant number

Gr. 10026

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Robbins, Gabrielle (Massachusetts Inst. of Technology) "Artemisia’s Industry: Between Farm and Factory in the Making of African Pharmaceuticals"

This dissertation explores what I call “agro-pharmaceutical” supply chains that link smallholder agriculture, factory extraction, and scientific research and development – in this case, to produce antimalarial medicines in Madagascar’s central highlands. My research focuses on three sets of Malagasy workers organized by a French-owned company in this form of purportedly “green” pharmaceutical production: 1) farmers who cultivate Chinese wormwood (Artemisia annua); 2) factory workers who extract artemisia’s active compound for global markets; and 3) plant scientists who conduct research at an urban R&D farm. I ethnographically examine how this pharmaceutical economy straddles national (post)colonial development aspirations to balance industrialization and extensive environmental conservation in Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot with its own high malaria burden. Artemisia’s Malagasy industry represents a case of small-scale “farm-pharma” increasingly depicted as the future of sustainable medicine production worldwide, raising questions about what is “good” growth – of plants, communities, or economies – while remaking agro-industry in the process. Amidst global concerns about environmental degradation from monoculture plantations and factory farms, I build on and extend anthropologies of medicine, agriculture, and work to ask how this new farm-to-factory model in Madagascar might tell new stories about relations between industry, health, environment, and capitalist growth.