Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationMassachusetts Inst. of Technology
Grant numberGr. 10026
Approve DateAugust 26, 2020
Project TitleRobbins, 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.