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Synthesizing HopeMatter, Knowledge, and Place in South African Drug Discovery$
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Anne Pollock

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226629049

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226629216.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 11 May 2021

In the Shadows of the Dynamite Factory

In the Shadows of the Dynamite Factory

(p.40) Two In the Shadows of the Dynamite Factory
Synthesizing Hope

Anne Pollock

University of Chicago Press

This chapter introduces the physical site of iThemba Pharmaceuticals in a place called Modderfontein, on the edge of the grounds of a historic Alfred Nobel dynamite factory. It explores the material and social legacies of extraction industries that shape the possibilities of and constraints on drug discovery and manufacture in South Africa. After describing the contingent, logistical reasons that the pharmaceutical company was founded in this particular location set up by a founder with ties to African Explosives and Chemical Industries (AECI), and grounded by a bench scientist’s thoughtful reflections on how the location matters, the chapter opens up into a broader meditation. The chapter analyzes parallels between dynamite sticks and pharmaceutical tablets, and between the historical development of dynamite and aspirational development of pharmaceuticals, with particular attention to the intertwined roles of capitalist entrepreneurs and state support for industry in building the enabling infrastructure. The South African economy and state has been and continues to be shaped by the mining industry, and pharmaceuticals provide a way to think about how it might develop otherwise. The chapter argues that pharmaceuticals become a tangible locus for hopes of building on technological legacies while moving forward from a violent past.

Keywords:   dynamite, pharmaceuticals, Modderfontein, Alfred Nobel, African Explosives and Chemical Industries (AECI), South Africa, infrastructure, mining, state support for industry, technological legacies

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