Nicole Labruto is an assistant research professor in the Department of Anthropology. She received her BA in Anthropology and Philosophy from Mount Holyoke College, her MA in Cultural Anthropology from the New School for Social Research, and her PhD in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during which she was a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. She is also the recipient of fellowships from the Social Science Research Council and the Fulbright Foundation. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and an Anthropologist-in-Residence at the Maryland College Institute of Art (MICA). She is a member of the Curatorial Circle of the Ecological Design Collective.
In my research I explore the intersection of life forms, landscapes, and labor in relation to postcolonial biologies. Working with bioscientists in Brazil and plant practitioners in Baltimore, my research integrates the anthropology of science, environmental anthropology, and postcolonial studies to bring new perspectives on the study of climate change and sustainability, as well as scholarly engagements with plants, energy, and healing.
My current book project, Sweet Monster: Culturing Sugarcane in Brazil, examines how bioscientists in Brazil are leveraging colonial plantation infrastructures and technologies into sustainability-oriented climate change solutions in Brazil and Mozambique. Following fieldwork with molecular biologists, biochemists, and agronomic economists all working with sugarcane at different scales of intervention, the book presents Brazilian engagements with cane as both a historical force and a site of future making. I argue that climate change is reorienting the ethical stakes of global South bioscientists, whose applied practices, research techniques, and goals are coming to center around “sustainability” and “green capitalism” founded on colonial infrastructures. The book grapples with sugarcane, a vegetal being seemingly beyond redemption, yet one that fills the dreams of global South scientists who see it as a critical component of a sustainable future.