Narrating technonatures: discourses of biotechnology in a neoliberal era



This article considers the role played by discourses of nature in structuring the cultural politics of anti-GMO activism. It argues that such discourses have been successful rhetorical tools for activists because they mobilize widely resonant nature-culture dualisms that separate the natural and human worlds. However, these discourses hold dubious political implications. In valorizing the natural as a source of essential truth, natural purity discourses fail to challenge how naturalizations have been used to legitimize sexist, racist and colonial systems of injustice and oppression. Rather, they revitalize the discursive purchase of appeals to nature as a justification for the status quo, indirectly reinforcing existing power relations. Moreover, these discourses fail to challenge the critical though contingent reality of GMOs' location within the wider framework of neoliberal social relations. Fortunately, appeals to natural purity have not been the only effective strategy for opposing GMOs. Activist campaigns that directly target the political economic implications of GMOs within the context of neoliberalism have also had successes without resorting to appeals to the purity of nature. The successes of these campaigns suggest that while nature-culture dualisms remain politically effective normative groundings, concerns over equity, farmers' rights, and democracy retain potential as ideological terrains in the struggle for social justice.

Keywords: biotechnology, political ecology, discourse, cultural studies, nature, social movements, political economy

How to Cite: Carroll, M. (2018) “Narrating technonatures: discourses of biotechnology in a neoliberal era”, Journal of Political Ecology. 25(1). doi: