Rice relations: place and personhood in the Philippine uplands
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the connections between place and personhood through agricultural practice in the Philippine uplands. I argue that swidden fields are transient, yet important, sites where human and non-human actors cyclically constitute each other as social and moral beings.
Paper long abstract:
Practices connecting place and personhood have been considered dialectical by anthropologists (Restikas 2007). Though attendant to historical and political contingencies, these conceptualisations have tended to privilege the agency of human actors in socio-spatial relations. In the southern Philippines, swidden (or shifting) agriculture is the most prominent form of environmental modification amongst indigenous peoples, and remains at the core of everyday social and spiritual practices that connect humans to the non-human world. While prosaic descriptions of swiddening emphasise the clearing, burning and cropping of forest plots as a means to secure subsistence needs, indigenous Pala'wan men and women must also navigate a complex array of human, spirit and animal relationships to modify their surroundings. This paper focuses, in particular, on the mythological origins of rice in human sacrifice to explore the connections between upland places and the performance of 'personhood' across the agricultural cycle. I argue that swidden fields are transient, yet important, sites where human and non-human actors cyclically constitute each other as social and moral beings.
Moral horizons of land and place