ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 3rd-6th April 2012

(P06)

Moral economy of agriculture in the global era

Location Convention Centre Lecture Hall-I
Date and Start Time 06 April, 2012 at 08:30

Convenors

Susan Visvanathan (Jawaharlal Nehru University) email
Mysore Narasimhan Panini (Jawaharlal Nehru University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

New cultural innovations that have proved to be profitable even as they go against the grain of globalisation induced inequalities are explored in this panel.

Long Abstract

This panel seeks to study processes of social and cultural hybridisation that contemporary global forces have unleashed in the field of agriculture. Some instances of such hybridisation that I have witnessed are of small farmers in north Karnataka becoming successful plant breeders who are avidly sought after by big agribusiness firms; of horticulturists in a small town in south Karnataka catering to the growing market for a special variety of heritage banana by combining traditional horticultural knowledge with modern technologies, of enterprising farmers and traders influenced by export oriented floriculture introducing non traditional flower varieties in local markets and initiating changes that seamlessly combine the traditional culture of plucked flowers and garlands with the culture of cut flowers and their bouquets. There are also instances of the proponents of organic farming evolving innovative practices to ensure that marginal and small farmers could convert their uneconomic holdings into productive assets. Such innovative solutions have given rise to new sensibilities of aesthetics and asceticism. This panel invites papers that offer thick descriptions of such social and cultural changes witnessed in the rural/agricultural sector.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Documenting Rural Arts and Crafts Through Photography

Author: Susan Visvanathan (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

Keywords:Crafts, markets, tourism, working traditions, division of labour, oikos.

Photographing craftspeople in Kerala, when they work in small courtyards, “under acres of sky” as Cat Stevens would say.

Long Abstract

In the visuals I will attempt to provide a glimpse of the routines involved in making metal mirrors and plaster of paris icons for ritual purposes. Tourism is often analysed in terms of foreign exchange brought in by local products, and these may be expensive such as the famous Aranmala mirrors, or they may be found commonly, like plaster of paris gods and goddesses in every local bazaar, during festivals. The photographs take the viewers to the workshop and courtyards where these objects are made.

'Ginger is a Gamble': On the moral economy of agrarian crisis and the neoliberalisation of agriculture in Wayanad (Kerala)

Author: Daniel Münster (Heidelberg University)  email

Short Abstract

Responding to agrarian crisis, cultivators in Wayanad increasingly engage in the risky cultivation of ginger in other states of India. This paper engages the practices of and moral talk about ginger cultivation and argues that it is manifestation of post-agrarian, neoliberal agriculture.

Long Abstract

Responding to agrarian crisis, cultivators in Wayanad increasingly engage in the risky cultivation of ginger in other states of India. This paper ethnographically engages the practices and discourses of ginger cultivation. The practice involves the seasonal migration of cultivators and labourers as far as Goa and Maharashtra and is based on large capital investments and chemical inputs and entails the risk of total crop-loss and hence financial ruin. In this paper, I argue that ginger cultivation is a post-agrarian practice and manifestation of the increasing neoliberalisation of agriculture. Ginger cultivation is a purely profit based unsustainable enterprise that takes its toll on both on labour and nature. Wayanad's moral talk about ginger involves an awareness of the fact that ecological frontier of ginger is constantly expanding (due to the fast depletion of soil by ginger), the high degree of financial risk involved, atrocities against Adivasi labourers from Wayanad, and, most importantly, its intimate connection to agrarian crisis in the district. Ginger is not only a gamble but also a killer. Ginger is linked to the economic and ecological crisis of small holder cash-cropping and the widely reported incidences of farmers' suicides in the district. Speculative ginger cultivation has been a new avenue for accumulation to some, but an epitome of ruin an indebtedness to others. This paper deals with the role of ginger in the moral economy of agrarian crisis in which questions of globalisation, environmental justice and sustainability in India's post-liberalisation agriculture are negotiated.

Valentine's Day and Floriculture in Bengaluru

Author: Smriti Mehra (Shrishti School of Art and Design)  email

Short Abstract

We highlight how Velentine's day is getting embedded in the culture of agriculture.

Long Abstract

Valenine's Day has now firmly established itself in the calender of urban festivals in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Superficially it remains an urban phenomenon but its roots go deep into the soil of villages on the outskirts of Bengaluru. We describe here the social networks that flowers knit between rurality and urbanity.We also highlight the innovativeness of the peasant in adapting herself/himself to the vicissitudes of global modernity.

The moral/aesthetic economy/ecology of agriculture in Bali

Author: Graeme MacRae (Massey University)  email

Short Abstract

Agriculture is a technological, ecological, economic, social, moral and aesthetic process. This paper summarises recent transformations of the aesthetic/moral economy/ecology of rice growing in Bali and discusses projects which may be understood in terms of redressing moral/aesthetic imbalances.

Long Abstract

Agriculture is clearly a technological process but it is equally also an ecological, economic, social, moral and aesthetic one. In Bali, a millennium-long tradition of very efficient cultivation of wet rice (paddy), was deeply embedded in religious, moral and aesthetic ecologies and economies. These were disturbed first by Dutch colonial interventions, then more deeply by the Green Revolution and more recently by broader forces of globalisation. It has been said of the Green Revolution that "its real significance is conceptual not technological and …its real failing is ideological … the immorality of its ecology" (Dove and Kammen 1997:92 ). This linkage, I would argue, is true of all agricultural change, certainly in Bali. This paper summarises recent transformations of the aesthetic/moral economy/ecology of rice growing in Bali and discusses several projects labelled as "sustainable" or "organic" in terms of their redressing of these moral/aesthetic imbalances as well as their more obvious technological and economic success.

Domestic reflections of sustenance strategies in northern Nepal.

Author: Ben Campbell (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

Food values and viable subsistence in northern Nepal show Tamang idioms and aesthetics of domestic aspiration and insufficiency engaging effects of labour migration in aesthetic and rhetorical transformations fashioned as fullnesses, depletions, and suitabilities.

Long Abstract

The effects of migrant labour flows out of the village subsistence economy have required adjustments in the daily task-scape of livelihoods, and the values accorded to animals and foods. This paper considers a case from north central Nepal where Tamang cropping systems and livestock movements show substantial changes from two decades ago. The moral economy of food production is undergoing ergonomic as well as aesthetic tensions and innovations. Clearly the rapidity of information flow enabled by mobile phones transforms the domestic network into a de-centred assemblage, and the role of remittances in sustaining food production by negotiated values, debts and reciprocities, calls for analysis of comings and goings of greater rapidity through the mutual dealings of householders, their kin and neighbours. The paper will review a set of observations about food values and viable subsistence in Tamang idioms and aesthetics of domestic aspiration and insufficiency, which include dressed-up performances for ritual house-cleansing, and innovations in house design. It will set these observations in a theoretical context in which livelihoods are presented as increasingly dependent on international labour migration without fully appreciating the subjective and expressive dimensions in which such transformations can be aesthetically and rhetorically fashioned as fullnesses, depletions, and suitabilities.

Globalisation and Corporitisation of Indian Agriculture: A Review of Food Insecurity in India

Author: Vikrant Kumar (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper proposes to analyse the role of globalization and corporatisation in food insecurity in India.

Long Abstract

The process of Globalisation and corporitisation is one of the highly contentious, much debated issues by all genres of expression — academia, media, policy circles, government officials and international agencies. Although this story is often presented in a picturesque, full-blown fashion, its real substance differs substantially from region to region, from community to community, and from one polity to another, and thus, requires a comprehensive, socio-economic analysis.

The prime objective of the present paper is to understand and present the intertwining of relationships between the economic integration with the global process and the considerable challenges this intertwining relationship brought to the agriculture sector. In the first place, a number of major crops have been witnessing a decline in productivity growth over the past decade in particular. Second, and perhaps more important from a short-term perspective, is the fact that Indian agriculture faces unfair competition from cheap imports, which poses an enormous threat to the livelihoods of the farming communities.

The commodities which are expanding today and are likely to grow in future to meet metropolitan demand - rice, cotton, vegetable oils, animal feeds, vegetables, flowers, ornamental plants and orchids, prawns and other sea food, and hardwood timbers for luxury furniture and house fitting. All of them precipitate complex problems like displacement of food growing land, displacement of hired labour, and in addition there is irreversible forest and land degradation caused by some of these changes. As has been briefly indicated above, this objective will be pursued under the strict vigilance of sociological methodology.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.