Geography Colloquium "Becoming a Pathogen: on the Topology of Soil Disease in California's Strawberry Industry"

Dr. Julie Guthman, University of California

Since the 1960s, California’s lucrative strawberry industry has relied on a set of highly toxic soil fumigants to suppress the widespread plant pathogen Verticillium dahliae, along with other soil-borne pests. Recently, however, these fumigants have seen tighter use restrictions while, as an ozone-depleting chemical, the industry favorite methyl bromide has been phased out except in nursery production. Meanwhile, more virulent pathogens have newly appeared, threatening devastation of the entire industry. In this talk Professor Guthman will offer a topological understanding of pathogen emergence. In this rendering pathogenicity does not inhere in an organism but in a situation in which heterogeneous elements and forces “intra-act,” making disease outbreaks less a product of invasions of hostile species than convergences of events that bring immanent qualities to the surface. The talk will also discuss how the reliance of fumigants has reverberated throughout the rest of the strawberry assemblage, including the knowledge practices that support it, making prospects for sustainable strawberry production truly elusive.

Julie Guthman received her PhD in geography at the University of California at Berkeley and is currently a professor of social sciences at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she teaches primarily in the Community Studies program. Guthman has published extensively on contemporary efforts to transform food production, distribution, and consumption, with a particular focus on the race, class and body politics of “alternative food” movements. Her publications include two multi-award winning books: Agrarian Dreams: the Paradox of Organic Farming in California and Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism. For the 2017-18 academic year, she received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard to work on a book that traces how soil pathogens and the solution of fumigation shaped California’s strawberry industry. She is also the recipient of the 2015 Excellence in Research Award from the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society.

Friday, November 9, 2018 at 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Patton Hall (RLP), 0.128
305 23RD ST E, Austin, Texas 78712

Event Type



College of Liberal Arts

Target Audience

Students, Staff, Faculty, Alumni


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