Growing Energy, Generating Plants: Brazilian Biofuel Science in the Age of Climate Change


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society


As energy becomes an ever more crucial aspect of addressing climate change, Brazilian scientists are reengineering sugarcane, which was once at the heart of the colonial project, to produce new forms of biofuels. This project, based on ethnographic fieldwork, examines the practices of Brazilian biological and social scientists as they create new energy-producing biotechnologies from the botanical life of the nation under the banners of green capitalism and sustainability. It argues that Brazilian science is becoming integral to a global bioenergy economy that operates in what the project calls a “plantation network”: a postcolonial agricultural formation that includes laboratories as obligatory passage points in the growing of plants to meet human needs and desires.