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The Aedes aegypti mosquito, known as the vector for Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses, has historically been targeted by public health campaigns as an enemy to be eliminated. However, new strategies, such as the transgenic approach, biologically modify the A. aegypti so that they can be deployed to control their own population—here, mosquito breeding and mating is operationalized as an insecticide. In this case, the insect must be simultaneously a friend and an enemy, cared for and killed, and it must establish encounters and nonencounters. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork at a “biofactory” in the northeast of Brazil dedicated to mass-producing these transgenic mosquitoes, this article investigates the new forms of labor and value produced through these contrasting human-mosquito relations. The author also examines how the project is implemented within broader geopolitics of experimentation and more-than-human gendered conceptions. Analyzing the multispecies relationships engendered under the premise that it is possible to produce nonencounters, she identifies the historical conditions and promissory claims of transforming the A. aegypti ’s reproductive capacity into labor for killing. Such recasting yields what the author calls the “nonencounter value” within the scientific remaking of mosquitoes, their becoming and being.
Environmental Humanities – Duke University Press
Published: Nov 1, 2021
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