Rijul Kochhar

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Massachusetts Inst. of Technology

Grant number

Gr. 10010

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Kochhar, Rijul (Massachusetts Inst. of Technology) "Antibiotic Resistance, Planetary Crisis, and the Anthropology of Waiting"

The efficacy of antibiotics is eroding. Resultantly, modern healthcare, agricultural, and biotechnological infrastructures—crafted by antibiotics in the 20th century—now confront ruination. Anticipating the catastrophic futures of antibiotic-failure demands ethnographic sensibilities to an unfolding planetary-crisis. This dissertation explores four interconnected sites in India, Georgia, and USA. Located at the crossroads of biomedical research, human-animal care, and terrains of secular-scientific and mythic-religious reason, these sites offer experimental reckoning within once-hierarchized, yet now conjoined, Cold-War geographies: Technicians in a Delhi microbiology lab confront ongoing deskilling through microbial-recalcitrance. Bacteriophage scientists at a Soviet-era facility in Georgia navigate possibilities for resurrecting an alternative technoscience featuring bacteria-devouring viruses. Bacteriophage viruses were first described in 1896 near Allahabad and the Kumbh Mela—at the confluence of the Indian rivers, Ganga and Yamuna. Beside these curative riverwaters, Hindu priests and ayurvedic doctors jostle with biomedical specialists, offering an epistemology of time at the intersection of faith, science, and mythic-certitude. Researchers and regulators in Boston scramble against a future without antibiotics, pursuing reconfigured biologies and biotechnologies. Antibiotic-resistance is the toxic accumulation of an industrial age—simultaneously a medical, ecological, security and scientific issue. This project, therefore, pursues wider conceptions of the complexity of nature, species-relations, and practice.