Rescaling the Metabolic: Food, Technology, Ecology [2020-21]

Alternate Mondays 17:00 - 19:00 in term time, unless otherwise noted. Please see programme for details (UK Time).

Online sessions until further notice.


About

This research network interrogates the concept of metabolism and evaluates its potential for understanding the politics and governance of the living and material world. It explores the metabolic from molecular to global scales, across a broad range of geographical and cultural contexts. Metabolism draws attention to new forms of industrial agriculture: the global population of 23 billion broiler chicken, accounting for 70% of the biomass of all birds in the world, and which has resulted in the creature becoming a signature of the Anthropocene’s stratigraphy, is a case in point. Metabolism is at the forefront of contemporary capitalist intensification: interventions at cellular levels and along biochemical pathways are opening up new molecular frontiers of accumulation. This harnessing of the metabolic is closely entwined with a vast infrastructure of storage, cold chains and just-in-time logistics: techno-metabolic systems, with their own demands for energy and resources, and their own effluvia in the form of carbon emissions and toxic chemicals are generating new zones of governance and loci of environmental politics. Health risks emerging from metabolic intensification, marked by virulent events including avian influenza in sites of industrialised livestock production, are prompting new forms of biopolitical surveillance and intervention.

Rescaling the Metabolic explores new understandings of the politics and governance of life, materials and processes. Through a programme featuring talks by leading thinking on metabolism, readings groups focusing on classic and contemporary texts, and discussions between scholars across the social and ecological sciences, this research network seeks to develop provocative ways of conceptualising the relations between food production, capitalism, technology, bodies, and the environment.

Download the Lent 2021 poster here

 

Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk

Convenors

Convenors

Thomas White (Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology)  (trew2@cam.ac.uk)
Maan Barua (Lecturer, Department of Geography)
David Nally (Department of Geography)
 

Faculty Advisors

Dr Andrew Sanchez (Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
Professor Matthew Gandy (Chair in Cultural and Historical Geography, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge)

Programme 2020-21

All online events are scheduled at UK time. Please check time for individual events.

Easter Term 2021 tba

Rescaling the Metabolic
Rescaling the Metabolic 1. Reading Group
03 May 2021, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)


 

Rescaling the Metabolic 2. Reading Group
17 May 2021, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

Reading Group

Lent term 2021
(Download the term poster here)

Rescaling the Metabolic
Rescaling the Metabolic (Internal meeting)
25 January 2021, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)
The Circular Economy and the Urban Metabolism
08 February 2021, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

Amy Zhang (New York)

From Metabolism to Chemistry
22 February 2021, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

Andrew Barry (University College London)

Urban Metabolism
08 March 2021, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

Matthew Gandy (Cambridge) - Rescaling the Metabolic Network

Michaelmas 2020

Rescaling the Metabolic
Inflammatory Remarks: The Metabolic Turn in Bioscience and Beyond
12 October 2020, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

Hannah Landecker (UCLA)

Rescaling the Metabolic Reading Group
26 October 2020, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)
Microbiopolitics Now, in Food Safety and Beyond
09 November 2020, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

Heather Paxson (MIT)
 

Climate, Class & Capitalism’s Metabolisms: A Ridiculously Brief History
23 November 2020, ONLINE SESSION (UK Time)

Jason Moore (Binghamton, NY)

Blogs


 

Author: Raúl Acosta

This blog is authored by Raúl Acosta, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, LMU Munich. Raúl Acosta is an invited contributor with the Rescaling the Metabolic: Food, Technology, Ecology Research Network at CRASSH.

“A new vision of biocontrol beyond what had been possible earlier ... points to what I call a ‘technomolecular city’, understood as a use of new technologies and scientific advances to harness the various microscopic processes at play in urban metabolic biochemical flows. ... It is an innovative governance design to use information about flows in the microscopic scale in cities either for private profit or public good”.

 

Authors: Catherine Oliver and Jonathon Turnbull

Blog essay authored by Catherine Oliver (Postdoctoral Research Associate, ERC Urban Ecologies project, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge) and Jonathon Turnbull (PhD Scholar, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge). Both are invited contributors with the Rescaling the Metabolic: Food, Technology, Ecology Research Network at CRASSH.

"In this essay, we ... attend to how chicken metabolisms are manipulated at a range of scales in pursuit of profit and human nutrition ... The chicken is conceptualised as a ‘singular inward laboratory’ where  metabolism forms a process to be controlled, monitored, and manipulated ... to become a conduit for, and synthesiser of, nutritional value for humans."

 

Authors: Jonathon Turnbull and Catherine Oliver

Blog essay authored by Jonathon Turnbull (PhD Scholar, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge) and Catherine Oliver (Postdoctoral Research Associate, ERC Urban Ecologies project, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge). Both are invited contributors with the Rescaling the Metabolic: Food, Technology, Ecology Research Network at CRASSH.

"Interventions in the climate-at-large being realised through bovine bodies allows us to conceptualise a metabo-politics of more-than-human life. We define this more-than-human metabo-politics as specific to the Anthropocene, where nonhuman metabolisms are subject to interventions, aims, and consequences that extend beyond bodies themselves. The portmanteau brings metabolism and politics together in a vein similar to bio- and anatamo-politics to signify the governance of metabolic flows."