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Accepted Paper:

Chemical entanglements: exploring health practices, toxic legacies, and acts of resistance against chlordecone pollution in Martinique  
Giorgio Brocco (University of Vienna) Aminata Cécile Mbaye (Utrecht University)

Paper Short Abstract:

Chlordecone is an insecticide extensively used in the banana plantations of Martinique from 1973 to 1993. This paper explores the ways in which experiences of toxicity associated with this substance have been shaped by violence, suffering, and practices of resistance.

Paper Abstract:

Chlordecone, an insecticide, has lingered in the soils of the French overseas departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique due to its extensive application in banana plantations to combat banana borer weevils (charançons du bananier) from 1973 to 1993. Since its ban, numerous epidemiological studies, social upheavals, activist movements, political debates and legal battles have underscored potential links between various health issues, including certain types of cancer, in the Caribbean population and the prolonged occupational exposure to its chemical toxicity. The biomedical reductionism and political biases of French authorities, as perceived by Martinicans, in attributing health issues and forms of exploitation to this chemical compound, along with the social anguish and political problems triggered by chlordecon's presence and its ties to the plantation system, exemplify the complex interplay of historical and contemporary forms of violence. These stem from post-slavery and post-colonial contexts as well as current socio-economic challenges, deeply affecting the daily lives of Caribbean people and heightening their concerns about residing in a polluted environment. Considering these complex dynamics, this paper delves into adversities and emotional entanglements associated with chlordecone's usage and presence in the environment. By exploring the bodily experiences connected to this chemical compound, we seek to illustrate how the practices, ideas, discourses, and experiences of Martinicans have been influenced and reshaped by genealogies of toxicity. Furthermore, our analysis of practices and acts of resistance against political and economic exploitation offers a detailed perspective on the persistent social, political and economic effects of chlordecone within the Caribbean population.

Panel P009
Ambivalent substances: chemosocialities in life-death worlds [Medical Anthropology Europe (MAE)]
  Session 1 Thursday 25 July, 2024, -