Maria do Mar Gago is a historian of science and technology interested in the global history of crops. She was trained as a biologist but from early on realized that she could not make sense of the contemporary practice of science without studying its history. She has a master’s in History and Philosophy of Sciences, and a Ph.D. in History at the Institute of Social Science, University of Lisbon. Her doctoral dissertation, ‘Robusta Empire: Coffee, Scientists and the Making of Colonial Angola (1898-1961)’, brings together the history of science and technology, environmental history and imperial history to produce a nuanced narrative of Robusta coffee and Portuguese colonialism in Angola.
Maria’s current project further explores the ways coffee and scientists shaped the social and political order, but this time from a transnational perspective beyond the Portuguese case. It builds on the notion of geopower, a kind of political rationality that takes the administration and control of the whole Earth. By taking world coffee collections as forms of geopower, it discusses the role of scientists in weaving international, national and colonial agendas, and also the ways coffee plants and their own history shaped political narratives about African forests, the cradle of coffee. Ultimately, this research aims at contributing to a growing scholarship that puts emphasis on science and plant agency in order to rethink narratives of global governance and circulation.
Her previous interests include the relationship between science and authoritarian regimes. She is associate editor of HoST – Journal of History of Science and Technology, since 2018.