As the world's major producer of sugar in the 19th century, Cuba became a nexus for the development of several different branches of anemerging "industrial science." The 1830s discovery of “ferments” (soon to be renamed enzymes) in organic chemistry transformed sugar experts’ understanding of waste in production. The more they studied cane sugar’s behavior with new instruments of analysis, the more sugar chemists came to grips with its vulnerability to rapid change. Mid-nineteenth-century concerns of state also shaped the redefinition of sugar. Precisely because the chemical complexity of sugar processing felt new, and because vocabularies of organic chemistry were still in flux, sugar experts adopted a ready-made set of concepts from the Greater Caribbean. Racial blackness and its biological particularities came to be used as the overarching model for mid-century chemists’ reimagining of this important commodity.
"El Principio Sacarino: Organic Chemistry Meets Racial Capitalism in the Cuban Sugar-Mill"
Friday, November 16, 2018 - 3:35pm
Department of History
University of Georgia