Volume 9, Issue 1, Spring 2012
The Time of Slime
Anthropocentrism in Harmful Algal Research
Drawing on scientific accounts of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and their detection technologies, this paper asks what conceptions of time and species presences enable a mapping of the biological productivity of microorganisms onto economic productivity or the loss thereof and how certain modes of technoscientific detection of specific algae materialize such a conception of time, circumscribing what counts as harmfulness and to whom. Moving beyond the mere affirmation of the activity of nonhuman nature, I seek to demonstrate how an epistemological anthropocentrism in scientific knowledge production that opposes historically flexible and technologically enhanced human creativity to its atemporal object of study manifests itself as a political anthropocentrism that presupposes “our” time as the unalterable movement of Homo Economicus. Such a political conception of time is supported by a view of “life itself” as a teleological process toward ever increasing complexity, effacing the possibility of asking to whom the current ecological transformations matter.