The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the necro-populationism of ‘climate-smart’ agriculture

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Abstract

Agricultural and reproductive technologies ostensibly represent opposing poles within discourses on population growth: one aims to ‘feed the world,’ while the other seeks to limit the number of mouths there are to feed. There is, however, an urgent need to critically interrogate new discourses linking population size with climate change and promoting agricultural and reproductive technologies as a means to address associated problems. This article analyses the specific discourses produced by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) in relation to these ‘population technologies’ and ‘climate-smart’ agriculture in particular. Drawing on concepts and approaches developed by Black, postcolonial and Marxist feminists including intersectionality, racial capitalism, social reproduction, and reproductive and environmental justice, we explore how within these discourses, the ‘geo-populationism’ of the BMGF’s climate-smart agriculture initiatives, like the ‘demo-populationism’ of its family planning interventions, mobilises neoliberal notions of empowerment, productivity and innovation. Not only do these populationist discourses reinforce neoliberal framings and policies which extend existing regimes of racialised and gendered socio-spatial inequality, but they also underwrite global capital accumulation through new science and technologies. The BMGF’s representations of its climate-smart agriculture initiatives offer the opportunity to understand how threats of climate change are mobilised to reanimate and repackage the Malthusian disequilibrium between human fertility and agricultural productivity. Drawing upon our readings of these discourses, we critically propose the concept of ‘necro-populationism’ to refer to processes that target racialised and gendered populations for dispossession, toxification, slow death and embodied violence, even while direct accountability for the effects of these changes is dispersed. We also identify a need for further research which will not only trace the ways in which the BMGF’s global policies are materialised, spatialised, reproduced and reoriented by multiple actors in local contexts, but will also recognise and affirm the diverse forms through which these ‘necro-populationist’ processes are disavowed and resisted.

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APA

Shaw, A., & Wilson, K. (2020). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the necro-populationism of ‘climate-smart’ agriculture. Gender, Place and Culture, 27(3), 370–393. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2019.1609426

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