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Becoming-After: The Lives and Politics of Quinine’s Remains

By Townsend Middleton

Cite As:
Middleton, Townsend. 2021. “Becoming-After: The Lives and Politics of Quinine’s Remains.” Cultural Anthropology 36, no. 2: 282–311.


This article explores the aftermath of quinine in India. Derived from cinchona, the fever tree, quinine was once malaria’s only remedy—and, as such, vital to colonial power. But it has left grave uncertainty in its wake. Today, little market exists for Indian quinine, but government cinchona plantations established by the British remain in Darjeeling. What will become of these dilapidated plantations and their 50,000 inhabitants is unclear. Crumbling quinine factories and overgrown cinchona may evoke ruination, but these remains are not dead. They have instead become the site of urgent efforts—and a periodically charged politics—to redefine land and life for the twenty-first century. This essay develops an analytics of becoming-after to ask not only, how do empires and human beings become-with world-historical substances like quinine but also, what do we make of life after they run their course?


becoming; ruins; ruination; plantations; postindustrial; postcolonial; materiality; temporality