|dc.description.abstract||This thesis uses tools from within the expansive area of scholarship known as Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to describe the material relations contributing to the on-going use -or discontinuation- of neonicotinoids in NZ’s agricultural practices. All though ANT is named a theory, for this thesis, it is better understood as a disparate family of material-semiotic tools, sensibilities and methods. These tools are simultaneously semiotic because they are about relations that carry meaning, and material because they are about the physical stuff caught up in those relations.
Because ANT is so expansive, I have focussed on the specific tools from within its literature that I have applied to the case-study of neonicotinoids. Therefore, I have used Callon’s key principles (agnosticism, generalised symmetry and free association) to remain free of a priori assumptions, describing actors and controversies as they emerge from the data and to look at the importance of non-humans without bias. I have also used Bruno Latour’s CSSF to identify potential interview participants and to analyse this hazardous substance/ agricultural practice controversy. Subsequently, these two tools have enabled me to make sense of how neonicotinoids are embedded -and maintained- in NZ’s agricultural practices.
Interview participants were identified by utilising the CSSF as a method for following the actors, subsequently resulting in 16 semi-structured interviews being performed. A thematic analysis was initially used to order the interview data and developed some scope of the case study. This was followed consecutively by an application of the CSSF, which supported an in-depth analysis of the case study and a representation of those material relations between growers, beekeepers, seed and chemical company representatives, international markets, consumers and regulators. Subsequently, the CSSF revealed that neonicotinoids are very much embedded in the arable sector’s agricultural practices, while they have been simultaneously removed from the agricultural practices of the apples and pears sector. Latour stresses that there is no separation between the context and the issue itself and subsequently, his CSSF brings the scientific, environmental, political and historical contexts into the material relations which the CSSF represents. Therefore, it is these material relations that I have traced and shown to contribute to the on-going use -or discontinuation- of neonicotinoids in NZ. More specifically, this thesis demonstrates how differences in the public representation of neonicotinoids and the presence, or the absence of maximum residue levels and grass grub underwrite the opposing uses of neonicotinoids in NZ.
Thus, by applying the CSSF to a case-study of neonicotinoids, this thesis demonstrates how it might be used to understand agricultural practices. Furthermore, by applying a critical lens to the CSSF, I have critiqued the way I set boundaries in this thesis, the lack of practical direction in the literature, the imposition of theoretical lexicon and the CSSF for what it missed. Subsequently, this research offers guidelines for using the CSSF to identify research participants, follow the actors and make sense of hazardous substance or agricultural practice controversies.||en