A lucky break : contingency in the storied worlds of prickly pear

Frawley, Jodi (2014) A lucky break : contingency in the storied worlds of prickly pear. Continuum : Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 28(6), pp. 760-773.

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In July 1926, the science behind biological control transitioned from an experimental method to a trusted policy tool in invasive species management. In local storytelling, historical writing and scientific analysis, the ‘lucky’ discovery of the South American Cactoblastis cactorum moth was a watershed moment for scientists concerned with prickly pear, Opuntia and Nopalea spp. Within 10 years, Queensland declared itself pest free. Overnight success is the climax in this tale's narrative arc. Articulating this introduction as a ‘lucky break’ worked to stabilize the narrative of human control in the agricultural environments of post-colonial Queensland, and, in doing so, consolidated biological control as critical management technique. I argue that ‘luck’ elides the assemblage of elements and actors necessary to enable this change, allowing settlers to distance themselves from the responsibility for disruptions associated with nineteenth-century plant transfers. To challenge the rhetorical function of luck, three episodes of contingency are discussed:

(1) transnational mobility of things and knowledge,

(2) the unpredictable adaptation of insect diet, and;

(3) human vectors in industrialized insect–plant complexes.

There are important distinguishing differences between luck and contingency, which I frame as a critical analytical tool for understanding the political role of non-humans, in the storied worlds of science in prickly pear land.

Impact and interest:

1 citations in Scopus
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2 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 80858
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Prickly Pear, Biological Control, Luck versus Contingency, Accountability, Conservation
DOI: 10.1080/10304312.2014.966403
ISSN: 1469-3666
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY (210000) > HISTORICAL STUDIES (210300)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Taylor & Francis
Deposited On: 22 Jan 2015 00:17
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2015 00:10

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