Vincanne Adams

Jul 25, 2023

Glyphosate and the Swirl

An Agroindustrial Chemical on the Move

Duke University Press 2023

Vincanne Adams's book Glyphosate and the Swirl: An Agroindustrial Chemical on the Move (Duke UP, 2023) is part of a broader trend in anthropology that is developing new methods and techniques to study our increasingly polluted and toxic world. Adams takes Glyphosate as a case study and follows this chemical as it moves from the past to the present, from the lab to the dinner table, from outside our bodies, to within our cells to grapple with what it is to live in such an entangled world.  

Adams explores the chemical glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup and a pervasive agricultural herbicide—as a predicament of contested science and chemically saturated life. Adams traces the history of glyphosate’s invention and its multiple uses as activists, regulators, scientists, clinicians, consumers, and sick people try to determine its safety and harm. Scientific and political debates over glyphosate’s toxicity are agitated into a swirl—a condition in which certainty is continually contested, divided, and multiplied. This movement replicates the chemical’s movement in soils, foods, bodies, archives, labs, and legislative bodies, settling in some places here and in other places there, its potencies changing and altering what it touches with different scales and kinds of impact. The swirl is both an artifact of academic capitalism, activist tactics, and contested scientific facts and a way to capture the complexity of contemporary life with chemicals. Prof. Vincanne Adams, is professor Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Elliott M. Reichardt, MPhil, is a PhD Candidate in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at Stanford University. Elliott's research interests are in capitalism, colonialism, and socio-ecological health in North America. Elliott also has long standing interests in medical anthropology and the history of science and medicine.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Elliott Reichardt

Learn More