The Genetic Contamination of Mexican Nationalism : Biotechnology and Cultural Politics

Mendez Cota, Gabriela. 2013. The Genetic Contamination of Mexican Nationalism : Biotechnology and Cultural Politics. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis interrogates the relationship between Mexican nationalism, maize agriculture and contemporary technoscience. My aim is to unlock a phenomenon that can at times take the shape of a reactive nationalism, while positioning itself as a defense of maize agriculture. Since 1999, a growing coalition of Mexican and international activists has denounced the transgenic "contamination" of Mexican maize agriculture. In the process, activists have identified transgenic maize as the
instrument of a foreign assault on a sovereign entity, namely the nation itself – which "native maize" symbolizes in a very tangible way. Rather than being positioned as a mere instrument of foreign powers, in my argument agricultural biotechnology is seen as a non-deterministic event that calls for a critical assessment of national narratives around agriculture, science, technology and technoscience. In addition to developing such a critical assessment, I set out to explore the ethical and political promises of refiguring the activist use of the term "contamination" so that the latter is understood to pertain genetically to identity itself, including the maize-based identity that some Mexicans invoke in their nationalistic opposition to transgenic maize. Drawing on specific contributions from post-Marxist political theory, media and cultural studies and feminist technoscience, I position "genetic contamination" as a critical and creative alternative to the reproduction of nationalist identifications. An acknowledgment of the ineradicability of antagonism, a rigorous attention to contextual specificities and a materialist commitment to the pursuit of democracy in the technoscientific world all inform my engagement with the nationalist narratives in the context of technoscience, understood here as "a form of life, a generative matrix" (Haraway, Modest_Witness 50).

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


Mexico, nationalism, maize, biotechnology, GMOs, deconstruction, technoscience, bioethics

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

04 Mar 2014 13:29

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:57


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