TechnoNatures: (Re)Configurations of Nature and Technology in the Case of Food

 Dissertation Laura Trachte

Subproject under the BMBF Project, The Language of Biofacts

One aspect of food is consistently reason for legal, political, economic and social disputes: its technologization. Sometimes technology is seen as much acclaimed progress (e.g. food preservation or new sustainable agro-technologies), other times the future of food is understood as returning to nature (e.g. the demand for ‘natural’ food and agriculture). However, the natural and the technical form ever-new alliances and their relations are unclear. Not only since today technologies engage in food from farm to fork. Technology is tightly entangled with biological processes when it comes to breeding, growing, harvesting and eating. Even the natural (e.g. organic product) exists utterly under technologized conditions. Today technologies change plant breeding (e.g. via genetic engineering), agriculture (e.g. via smart farming with robots) and food production (e.g. via 3-D-food-printing). The Ph.D.-project investigates dynamic relations of nature and technology, which (re)configure especially due to new technologies for breeding, farming and dieting through regulation (e.g. EU organic law), innovation (e.g. digitalization) and consumption (e.g. food fairs).

Research Question

How do nature and technology (re)configure under technologized conditions within their relations in the case of food?

Thesis

Technology and nature emerge as elements of and within their relations. They emerge exactly the way they relate in their intra-actions (not inter-actions). Elements such as products, legal regulations or certain diets primarily emerge through their relationships by which they become plausible as technical or natural. Certain configurations of nature and technology stabilize only temporarily.

Contribution to the Dimension of 'Nature'

The perspective on food between nature and technology challenges our general understanding of these traditional categories: Even perceived ‘natural’ conditions are explicable as throughout technological ones and can be described as TechnoNatures.

This project is part of the scientific research of MCTS

The project uses a discourse analytical perspective and understands food in a broad sense: it comprises recent developments in innovation, regulation and consumption. It investigates phenomena in plant breeding, agriculture and food preparation and how new technologies create ever new relations with nature. Using different viewpoints, it reflexively examines why we eat, what we eat and how we produce and consume food. Eating is an everyday activity, therefore the project is highly compatible for open dialog.