Confronting the Uncertainty of Toxic Exposure. Knowledge‐making on Aflatoxins in Kenyan Maize
Konstantin investigates how scientific institutions, farmers and traders produce and translate knowledge of the aflatoxins produced by the moulds of the Aspergillus flavuss pecies as by‐products of its metabolism.They are the most toxic and potent hepatocarcinogenic natural compounds ever characterized. Being invisible and tasteless, the toxins can only be detected with specific testing technologies. In Kenya, people with limited or no access to testing methods, knowingly and unknowingly interact with moulds on an everyday basis. This invisibility is one source of toxic uncertainty. Different local and global institutions aim to address this problem by testing maize and linking aflatoxins to health problems. Konstantin’s research addresses the question of how the actors come to know and connects this knowledge production to forms of accountability. The exact intervention that addresses the lack of knowledge can generate economic problems for the farmers: the better access to testing tools renders food as potentially dangerous, but without resources to manage fungi or purchase aflatoxin‐free maize, the farmers’ situation is precarious. Additionally, regulators are forced to confiscate and destroy contaminated crops, resulting in further food shortages and adding to the problem of famine and malnutrition in parts of Kenya. Therefore, the fight against aflatoxin produces uncertainty in the very field it should address: food security. Konstantin’s research investigates these entanglements of toxic uncertainty, scientific and humanitarian intervention and accountability.
Konstantin is interested in knowledge production in invisible and uncertain conditions including in the future, in human bodies and in contexts of toxicity. His research interests include epistemologies, questions of (un)certainty, anthropology of the body and STS.
Konstantin studied Social Anthropology, Economics and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Halle. He received his Bachelor of Science in Economics in 2017 with a thesis entitled, “Financing Health Care in Eastern Africa – A Comparison of the Development of WHO National Health Account Indicators from 1995 to 2013,” and completed his Master of Arts in Social Anthropology in 2018 with the thesis, “Knowledge on the Run: Epistemological Uncertainties in the Careers of Kenyan Long-Distance Runners.” During both his undergraduate and graduate studies, he conducted fieldwork in Benin, Southern Ethiopia, the Western Baltic Sea and Kenya. In September 2018 he starts as a PhD researcher with ANTHUSIA, a multi-disciplinary research project in the Anthropology of Human Security in Africa funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. His project takes up questions of toxic exposure, agricultural production, pollution and human security in focusing on knowledge-making related to recent mould infections of maize. He is currently preparing his ethnographic fieldwork, to take place in Meru, Kenya.
- Early Stage Researcher in ANTHUSIA
- Member of the LOST Research Network.
- Affiliate of the Doctoral Program Environment and Society of the Rachel-Carson-Center, Munich.
Biehl, Konstantin (2018) "Knowledge on the Run: Epistemological Uncertainties in the Careers of Kenyan Long-Distance Runners." Working Paper Series DFG Priority Programme 1448: Adaptation and Creativity in Africa, Nr. 29. Leipzig and Halle.