This article examines what economic growth and state versions of progress have done to small and medium-scale farmers in an urban setting, in Arequipa in southern Peru. The general reorganization of production, resources, and labor in the Peruvian economy has generated a discursive move to reposition small and medium-scale farmers as backward. This article analyzes how farmers struggle to find their place within a neoliberal urban ecology where different conceptions of what constitutes progress in contemporary Peru influence the landscape. Using an analytical lens that takes material and organizational infrastructures and practices into account, and situates these in specific historical processes, the article argues that farmers within the urban landscape of Arequipa struggle to reclaim land and water, and reassert a status that they experience to be losing. Such a historical focus on material and organizational infrastructural arrangements, it is argued, can open up for understanding how local and beyond-local processes tangle in complex ways and are productive of new subjectivities; how relations are reconfigured in neoliberal landscapes of progress and dispossession. Such an approach makes evident how state and nonstate actors invest affects, interests, and desires differently within a given landscape.
Collective responses to shrinking water access among farmers in Arequipa, Peru
Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen
The agricultural situation in Poland has been changing significantly during the last decades. In 1989, the predictability of the communist centrally planned economy was replaced by the unexpectedness and "invisible hand" of the free market economy. The socialist welfare state has been replaced by new modes of support, introduced by European Union (EU). On the basis of fieldwork conducted between 2005 and 2008 in farming communities in eastern Poland, I focus on decision making among small-scale farmers. This article addresses decision-making processes and their sociocultural context, including the reasons for and circumstances behind decisions, and also elements of decision-making processes that tend to hinder the introduction of EU agricultural policy. In the course of adapting to new and changing realities, farmers creatively use customary ways of thinking and acting in the various decisions they have to make while running the farm. Changes of the very mechanisms of decision-making processes seem to be rather slow, however.
Patented seeds at dispute in Canada's courts
Patents on objects that have agency such as seeds pose new challenges for governance, raising fundamental questions of control and responsibility. In May 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada found the farmer Percy Schmeiser guilty of infringing the Monsanto patent on genetically modified canola, because he reseeded part of his canola harvest although he knew or ought to have known that it contained seeds of GM canola plants that had blown into his field. In May 2005, a group of organic farmers tried a legal procedure to get certification as a class against two biotechnology corporations Bayer CropScience and Monsanto for polluting their fields with GM canola. At stake are questions on the type of ownership that can be claimed over plants—and whether ownership can be claimed over a plant at the same time that liability for its reproduction is denied. The two court cases I discuss allow us to more closely see how genetically modified canola plants have become objects of contention among Western Canadian farmers, how they transformed the farmers’ daily work and relations between neighbors, and how they increased farmers’ dependency on agro-biotech corporations.
The Social Worlds of Wheat
Wheat is one of the world’s most widely grown, traded, and consumed crops. This article reviews the interdisciplinary literature on human-wheat interactions, tracing how various actors engage with wheat up until its point of consumption. I look first at wheat as a seed, examining efforts to transform wheat over time through farmer selection and scientific breeding, and the emergence of high-yielding wheat, hybrid wheat, and genetically modified wheat. Second, I look at wheat as a plant and what it means to farm wheat. I highlight two key dimensions of farmer-wheat interactions—farmers’ choice of variety and their management of risk. Finally, I look at wheat as a grain and the practices of transportation, sorting, and trade that mediate flows of harvested grain from field to market. Through reviewing these three areas of literature, the article reveals the social worlds that both shape and are shaped by this globally significant crop.
The Secondary Residence in Postwar France
From the early 1960s to the mid-1980s, a revaluation of the French countryside as a site of leisure and as a place to imagine France’s rural past fueled an unprecedented boom in the ownership of peasant houses by urban dwellers for use as secondary residences. Peasants, shopkeepers, and artisans abandoned the countryside in extraordinary numbers in the 1950s and 1960s. They left behind a vast stock of old houses and agricultural buildings. Soon boarded-up farm houses and derelict barns caught the interest of members of the prospering urban middle class looking to purchase, as well as city dwellers of more modest income who inherited a family property in their pays d’origine.
Transitions and Transformations in Basque Agricultural Practices
Meredith Welch-Devine and Seth Murray
In this article, we discuss the economic constraints and opportunities that Basque farmers in two neighbouring valleys in France faced before the 2003 reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In the last decade, constraints and opportunities have shifted, and farmers have diversified their economic strategies in order to cope with a rise in rural tourism and second home ownership, an expansion of leisure activities into what has historically been an agricultural territory, and the implications that the uncertain future of the European Union's CAP has for small family farmers in this area. We examine this diversification of household economic strategies to include non-agricultural activities and the implications it has for economic health and rural livelihoods in the Basque region.
The Small Non-Greek Farmers of Global Greek Countrysides
James P. Verinis
Though Greek agriculture is arguably the picture of rural underdevelopment in Europe, life in rural Greece is transforming within a new global migratory context. Farmers now work with myriad non-Greek minorities who, with the onset of the postsocialist period, have begun to play a diversity of socio-economic roles. These immigrants help to de fine what agricultural (dis)incentives, environmental stewardship, social fabric and territorial occupation mean in the countryside. Together with locals they now co-manage new tensions stemming from European rural development programs and global commodity markets.
Scholarship tends to reify the conclusion that immigrants are merely transient, exploited labourers. In conjunction with macroeconomic analyses of rural 'stagnation', such characterizations misrepresent current realities and undermine alternative potentialities. As some new residents join the ranks of small-scale Greek farmers, new rural values are crystallising, opening a door for new interpretations of rural development in Greece.
The transformative frictions of a farmers' movement in Europe
This article follows the trajectory of a French farmers' movement that contests the seed production and regulation system set in place during agricultural modernization. It focuses on the creativity of the movement, which ranges from semantic innovations (such as “peasant seeds”) to the reinvention of onfarm breeding practices based on new scientific paradigms, and includes new alliances with the social movements defending the commons. The trajectory of the movement is shaped by its encounters—with scientists, other international seed contestations, and other social movements—and by the productive frictions they create. This in-depth reframing of the activities connected to seeds contributes to building a counternarrative about farmers and seeds that reopens spaces for contestation. In this counternarrative, “peasant seeds” play a central and subversive role in the sense that they question the ontological assumptions of present seed laws.
Nguyen Van Suu
Đô'i Mó'i, the name given to the economic reforms initiated in 1986 in Vietnam, has renewed the party-state's ambitious scheme of industrialization and has intensified the process of urbanization in Vietnam. A large area of land has been converted for these purposes, with various effects on both the state and society. This article sheds light on how land conversion has resulted in farmers' resistance and in what way and to what extent it has transformed their livelihoods in the transitional context of contemporary Vietnam. The article argues that agricultural land use rights remain an important asset for Vietnamese farmers, containing great value and meaning for them besides forming a means of prod
Paul E. Farmer
What are the true costs of war? If anthropologists are to help answer this question, it will be because we can link personal narratives (and qualitative methods) to historically deep and geographically broad analyses of conflict. This essay seeks to explore the costs of armed conflict—the economic, affective, and general social costs of war—by examining the experience of a single family, two generations of it, caught in the midst of two conflicts. Their experience links the United States to Haiti, Cuba, and Iraq. As limited as conclusions might be, in reflecting on these narratives, we might still conclude that the true costs of war are rarely, if ever, gauged.