The Life of a Pest tracks the work practices of scientists in Mexico as they study flora and fauna at scales ranging from microscopic to ecosystemic. Amid concerns about climate change, infectious disease outbreaks, and biotechnology, scientific research in Mexico has expanded its focus to go beyond threats to human life to include threats to animal, plant, and microbial worlds. Emily Wanderer outlines how concerns about biosecurity are leading scientists to identify populations and life-forms as worth saving or as "pests" in need of elimination. Moving from high security labs where scientists study infectious diseases, to offices where ecologists regulate the use of genetically modified organisms, to remote islands where conservationists eradicate invasive species, Wanderer explores how biopolitical research informs, and is informed by, concepts of nation.
Emily Wanderer is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh.
"Emily Wanderer's vivid ethnography examines biosecurity discourses and practices in Mexico, focusing on scientific projects in a range of settings (labs, fields, and offices) in order to understand how biodiversity provides a means for reimagining national identity."
– John Hartigan Jr., author of Care of the Species: Races of Corn and the Science of Plant Biodiversity
"An impressive analysis of the deep and distinctive entanglements of nature and culture in the Mexican context. Moving deftly across scale, from the molecular to complex ecosystems, Wanderer's nuanced theoretical intervention offers important lessons for life in the Anthropocene."
– Karen-Sue Taussig, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Minnesota