Slowing things down: Lessons from the GM controversy

Bingham, Nick (2008). Slowing things down: Lessons from the GM controversy. Geoforum, 39(1) pp. 111–122.




This paper stages an encounter between one strand of the controversy around genetically modified food crops and some conceptual resources from the field of science and technology studies, with the aim of illuminating the relationship between science and politics. Contrary to some suggestions, it is argued that the spatial, temporal and material imagination encapsulated in the figure of Progress remains central to their contemporary articulation. Best described as an ‘anti-political’ strategy, Progress does not leave room for anything else but one story of the world. Through following the attempts of both scientists in the field and protestors on the streets to make public some of the trajectories which this story leaves out, what emerges is the possibility of an alternative to Progress that is not based simply on its rejection. Instead, such efforts offer resources for inventing another way of collectively going forward which chime with some more theoretical attempts to elaborate how things might be productively ‘slowed down’. An example of how government was forced to construct a way of dealing with things that is more adequate and appropriate to life in a full world is compared with Bruno Latour’s model of due process for nonhumans, before some conclusions are drawn about whether we should be depressed or hopeful about our ability to move on in the lights of such attempts.

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