Master’s Research: Methodology, Part 8

Reflexivity, Positionality, and Reciprocity

In order to reduce and eliminate any sort of harm done to my participants, and to address any ethical issues, a critical conversation of reflexivity, positionality and reciprocity is important. The go-to conceptual framework that will guide this portion of my research is anti-ethnocentric and reflexive methodology (Roschelle, Toro-Morn & Facio 2010). In short, by critically examining my reflexivity in research, I can better understand my position within it and am therefore better equipped to reciprocate the information that was provided to me during the course of my project.

Reflexivity in social science acknowledges “the interconnections and mutual influence” between researcher and those being researched (Roschelle, Toro-Morn & Facio 2010).   Weak reflexivity is the recognition of the social position of the researcher and how it influences the researched. On the other hand, strong reflexivity entails moving beyond basic recognition and attempting to dismantle the inequitable relationships between the social scientist and their participants (Roschelle, Toro-Morn & Facio 2010). Strong reflexivity then, provides the opportunity to bifurcate one’s consciousness within the realm of social research. Bifurcation in this sense creates a double consciousness, a concept originally conceptualized by W.E.B Dubois in his analysis presented in The Souls of Black Folk. Taken into the context of multi-sited and macro-ethnographic methodology, double consciousness is the idea that as researchers, we must see ourselves and our respondents as we each exist in the social, cultural and material world. It “allows us to recognize that our own historical and cultural biases shape the research questions, methods, interpretation of interviews, and our own collaboration” (Roschelle, Toro-Morn & Facio 2010: 366).

A double consciousness then, elucidates our positionality within the context of the research. Geographically speaking, it could be our position within a space and how that biases our observations. Socially, a double consciousness acknowledges our hierarchical superiority, power and prestige as social scientists and the ethical dilemmas associated with doing field work and potentially ‘researching down’.   In my personal context, my double consciousness helps me navigate my positon with regards to the privileged color of my skin and gender identification, as well as my citizenship origination within a paternalistic and imperialistic hegemonic country like the United States.

According to Luker (2010), another item that we need in our “metaphorical back pocket” is an idea of how we will “repay the kindness of the people who agree to be researched” (p. 150). The most common way is to provide the finished product of research to them. However, this could take years and be unrealistic; especially considering my circumstances and the language barrier involved. Estrada & Hondagneu-Sotelo (2013) reciprocated by offering education services to their informants, such as assistance with filling out financial aid applications and job resumes. Luker (2010) gave back to her research site by donating blood, therefore making a service provided by her research site more affordable for community members.  How the researcher reciprocates is not important; what is important is that the role of the other (the researched) is holistically taken into account and cared for. My situation is distinct because I will be conducting research as a Peace Corps volunteer. I have the unique chance to participate in a service-learning Master’s program. I intend to use my role as volunteer as an opportunity to show reciprocity for my research sites and participants. What exactly is to be provided I do not know yet. However, my time, energy, physical and intellectual labor will be provided in order to leave my research site and participants in a better scenario than when I arrived.

Data Management and Analysis

The three ethnographic methods I will be employing are non-participant, participant observation and semi-structured interviews. Part of my informed consent will be permission to audio record the interviews. Most if not all of my interviews will be in Spanish. Recording my participant will allow me to focus more on the moment. Strict attention to translation will not be necessary because I will be able to listen back at my leisure. In the possible scenario where I will not be able to record, I will rely on hand written or typed notes that detail important paraphrases and quotations. For my observation, I will begin a field notebook. I plan to take notes in English and Spanish. However, writing in English might provide for some extra security; the language barrier in this sense might play in my favor. For extra security, I will use pseudonyms for individuals and codes for locations. My field notes will be color coded as well, allowing me to visually separate my empirical observations, thoughts and emotions, and sidebar notes. The audio recordings from my interviews will be transcribed and stored in a password protected computer file. My hand written notes from interviews and field notes will be also compiled and secured electronically.

Analysis of my data will begin simultaneously with observations and interviews. Lofland and Lyn (1995) share that “the field wisdom is to start coding quite early in the research process and to engage in it with as much regularity and frequency as possible” (3). I will use a systemic process when I begin my coding. The first step in this process is initial coding, “where researchers look for what they can define and discover in the data” (Charmaz 1983: 113). My initial coding will then slowly transform into focused coding. A sign that the coding process is becoming more focused is when “some codes begin to assume the status of overarching ideas or propositions” that will later “occupy a prominent or central place in the analysis” (Lofland & Lyn 1995). It is with this understanding that we can begin to conceptualize coding as the channel between the data collection and its conceptual and theoretical underpinnings; coding therefore becomes the means through which an analytical end is reached. This two-fold process, of initial and focused coding, will continue until a saturation of elements occurs.

During this coding process, I will also be writing memos. As codes develop, so too do the memos, serving as the beginnings of the eventual narrative. Charmaz (1983) clearly states that memos are the prose that “tells what the code is about” (p. 120). Miles & Huberman (1994) go one step further writing, “memos are primarily conceptual in intent. They don’t just report data; they tie together different pieces of data into a recognizable cluster, often to show that those data are instances of a general concept” (p. 72). This idea of memos as clusters resonates with Luker’s conception of the daisy diagram—where each petal of the flower signifies an important element and is related to a central idea (2010).

My memo writing will parallel the approach that my coding entails. At the ground floor of analysis, elemental memos are created. These are detailed analytic renderings of some relatively specific matter (Lofland & Lyn 1995). These memos correlate well with my initial coding processes. My initial discoveries will be archived into elemental memos, which will then be worked into the second type of memo writing—sorting memos. Charmaz (1983) explains the transition, “by going through accumulated [elemental] memos and sorting them, researchers gain insight into… core variables, key phases in a process…[and] major issues” (p. 122). Sorting memos serve well to bolster the focused codes that I will fabricate—again, serving as a type of story of the larger social phenomenon that I am trying to pin down. My memo writing will then go one step further than the coding process I am employing. Integrating memos, which are explanations of connections and relationships among the sorting memos (Lofland & Lyn 1995) will begin to weave a common thread between my various memos and focused codes. Integrating memos will be the last step before the ‘real’ writing begins. In fact, some of my memos at this stage will be worked into my paper verbatim, while others are slightly rearranged to fit the context of my paper more appropriately.

Lastly, it is important to comment on the epistemological context in which my coding and memo writing will be occurring and how these constructions of knowledge will come to fruition. The entire data collection and analytical process will be inductive and iterative (Dougherty 2016). My data collection will be inductive because I will allow for the data out-croppings to appear on their own as opposed to deductively going into the field searching for specific elements that satisfy a hypothesis. My data collection, and subsequent codes and memos, will be grounded in that sense—focused on hypothesis discovery rather than hypothesis testing (Luker 2010; Strauss and Corbin 1990). My coding and memo writing will be iterative because I will allow them to shape and reshape the research process. Pre-established codes can shrink the scope of observations. By allowing my codes and memos to be iterative, I am allowing them ‘talk to one another’, to be in constant conversation. In the eyes of the canon, this sort of flexibility is blasphemous. However, qualitative methods allow for this repetitive, open ended collecting and coding process— a method that is open to honest and in the moment observation and analysis.

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Master’s Research: Methodology, Part 7

Research Design

In order to prepare an accurate account of the GMO moratorium in Peru this project will rely on multi-sited and macro ethnographic research methodologies. These strategies and techniques will each be theoretically informed by the feminist research qualities of reflexivity, positionality and reciprocity. The research goal will be to garner important opinions and perspectives from a myriad of stakeholders who are involved with the moratorium on GMOs—such as farmers, scientists, activists and politicians. These individual (micro) accounts, from multiple positions (this could be geographic, ideological and/or epistemological) in the spectrum of involvement with the moratorium, will then be extended outward or “bumped up a level of generalizability” (Luker 2010) and couched within larger (macro) and theoretical understandings of the production, usage, and governance of GMOs in the global world system. By doing so, this ethnographic project will map the multiple trajectories—their genesis, passageways and destinations—of governance, knowledge production and indigeneity as they occur within the Peruvian neoliberal field.

Multi-Sited & Macro Ethnography

In qualitative research, there are two types of ethnography: single sited and multi-sited. The latter separates itself from the former because it “moves out from the single sites and local situations of conventional ethnographic research designs to examine the circulation of cultural meanings, objects, in diffuse time-space” (Marcus 1995: 96). In other words, it is a mobile ethnography that examines multiple trajectories of socio-cultural phenomena across multiple sites. In doing so, multi-sited ethnographic methodologies complicate and extend the ‘them-us’ dualistic framework of single site ethnography, and work to break down the binary between “individual lifeworlds” and the world system. In short, “multi-sited research is designed around chains, paths, threads, conjunctions or juxtapositions of locations in which the ethnographer established some form of literal, physical presence, with an explicit, posited logic of association or connection among sites (Marcus 1995: 105).

Complimentary to multi-sited ethnography are the tenets of extended or macro-ethnography. In a comparison to canonical and positivistic styles of social research (i.e. survey design), Burawoy (1998) describes reflexive research as “a model of science that embraces not detachment but engagement as the road to knowledge” (p. 5).  Macro-ethnography applies this quality of reflexive social science and works to embed itself within localized peoples, processes and phenomena. The process then expands itself, extends outward, to include macro, external forces and eventually once more to subsume higher echelons of theoretical thinking. Burawoy (1998) describes this process, “reflexive science starts out from dialogue, virtual or real, between observer and participants, embeds such dialogue within a second dialogue between local processes and extralocal forces that in turn can only be comprehended through a third, expanding dialogue of theory with itself” (p. 5). Even more explicitly, Burawoy (1998) explains, “the extended case method applies reflexive science to ethnography in order to extract the general from the unique, to move from the “micro” to the “macro”, and to connect the present to the past in anticipation of the future, all by building on preexisting theory” (p. 5, emphasis in the original).

Garnering Informants & Preserving Consent

            This research project will attempt to replicate the fluid qualities Marcus and Burawoy’s multi-sited and macro-ethnographic research designs. When it comes to sampling Duneier (2011) explains, “one of the most popular ways to gain access in ethnographic research is known as convenience sampling: phenomena are included in a study on the basis of their availability, rather than through random sampling” (p. 1). In other words, this strategy will allow what is occurring in the field to inductively inform who is chosen for interviews and what social phenomena is chosen for observation and analysis. This technique will be combined with Quark’s (2012) sampling strategy. In her study about scientized politics and global governance in the cotton trade, she explains, “my sampling strategy for interviews aimed to capture variation both within different nodes of the commodity chain and across different geographic locations […] to this end, I interviewed actors in each of the key nodes or positions within the cotton trade…” (Quark 2012: 905).

For the present research project, key informants will conveniently be chosen from throughout the different levels of involvement with the GMO moratorium. In this case, multi-sited variation will be attained because of the geographic separation between rural areas, where farmers live and work, and urban areas, where politicians and scientists tend to work. Ideological and epistemological variation will also be attained by including various stakeholders with dissimilar beliefs, opinions and ways of knowing—both about the neoliberal political climate and the highly scientific characteristics of biotechnology. Instead of allowing canonical research guidelines to control my sample and sampling size, I will follow Hine’s (2007) advice and focus on diversity as the key insight for good ethnography—allowing saturation of data to be my signal for an appropriate sample size and successful data gathering process. By doing so, this research project—in line with the expansive merits of multi-sited and macro-ethnography—will stretch the notion of conventional single-sited ethnography and other forms of positivistic social science research. Hine (2007) explains, “our methodological instincts are to clean up complexity and tell straightforward linear stories, and thus we tend to exclude descriptions that are faithful to experiences of mess, ambivalence, elusiveness and multiplicity” (p. 663). However, social science research is inherently messy and “fundamentally nonlinear” (Marshall & Rossman 2016: 65). Instead of attempting to purge research of messiness, the research design for this project will embrace the sometimes chaotic and iterative research process as normal and inevitable qualities of social life.

However, it is absolutely crucial to know that the potential disorderliness of this project will not negatively impact the informants who are selected for interviews or the spaces that are chosen for observation. The consent and security of all participants and locations will be preserved according to mandated IRB protocol. In a discussion on feminist ethnography, Stacy (1988) explains the unfortunate reality of ethnographic research, “field work represents an intrusion and intervention into a system of relationships, a system of relationships that the researcher is far freer than the researched to leave” (23). I intend to manage this intrusion by always, first and foremost, obtaining consent from all my informants.  In fact, this project will go one step further in order to protect an informant’s right to non-participation by practicing what Ellis (2007) calls ‘process consent’. She defines process consent as the action of checking at each stage of research whether or not participants still want to be included. By doing so, I am able to hold my research accountable for only including informants—and their highly valued personal stories, thoughts and opinions— who want to be included, and who have some piece of information that advances my research. In addition, and according to IRB protocol, any and all interview transcripts will be electronically filed and password protected. The field notes I create will use codes and pseudonyms to ensure anonymity amongst my informants and the locations I choose to observe. If names of my interview informants are needed in the final written portion of the project, I will encourage the informants to create pseudonyms and name themselves. This will help preserve their humanness, by avoiding identification numbers, and their agency, by being in charge of how they are represented in the final product.

A Lesson Learned: Promotions

The end of the Peruvian school year is about this time. Teachers are wrapping up there coursework, preparing documents, and organizing for the next year. Students are coming to school later and later, not wearing their uniforms and getting excited for their vacation. Teachers and students get about 2 months of free time. During that time, some will work but most will play.

The end of the school year is also accompanied by promotions. These are Peruvian graduations. There is one for graduating from primary school, which is like middle school, and another for secondary school, which is like graduating from high school. Lucky for me I was invited to both this year. My host-sister is part of the high school graduation and some extended family are part of the primary school graduation. So I  washed my hair and put on ‘nicer’ clothes in order to attend these events with my host family. The two promotions were very much different. However, there were some common themes running through the two that helped me learn a lot about how important these events are.

(1.) Perhaps one of the most obvious cultural components of any sort of promotion is the importance of family ties. If you are related, in any way, to one of the students who are graduating, chances are you are getting invited. Once you are at the promotion, you greet other families, but make sure to sit amongst your own. In each graduation there was a time for family related dancing and photographs. Each family took their time to pose in photos with the honored student or share a dance with them. Members of the family are repeatedly thanked for their support in getting their student this far. In some cases, the support was more loving and obvious, but there was support nonetheless.

(2.) A second important portion of a Peruvian promotion is music. In fact, most of the event is centered around a dance that takes place towards the end. In the case of the secondary school promotion (my host-sister’s), there was a DJ and MC. They played music throughout the promotion and organized the sequence of events. In primary school graduation, there was a live orquestra band. Both graduations also had coordinated dances. Each class had choreographed a dance to be performed for the audience. The younger kids were very formal and almost romantic with there’s. The high school aged kids were definitely more modern and borderline sexual.

Once all he photographs, speeches, gift giving and eating is over, each promotion fired up their dance. In the case of the secondary school dance, the disc ball turned on and the fog machine started blasting. The auditorium quickly became a discoteca. The kids awkwardly made their way onto the dance floor, dragging others to share in the embarrassment. I was perfectly happy watching the hormone-ridden high school dance party unfold, but the flash from my camera blew my cover. I was then dragged onto the dance floor and paired with a student’s mom to dance. I did the best I could for about 10 songs. At that point, I made the excuse that I needed to go to the bathroom and the mom told me her feet hurt.

The primary school dance was much more communitarian. The live band came onto stage and began playing music. Within a matter of minutes the dance floor would be full of people dancing. At this point, I was sitting with the professors. We shared dances and switched partners. At this point, I was feeling much more confident in my dancing abilities. We would dance for 2 or 3 songs at a time before the band took a break. Everyone would then return to their drinking circles until the next round of songs came on. Which leads me to my third important cultural component of Peruvian graduations: beer.

(3.) It was no secret that beer would play a large component of any graduation. In fact, students and families were almost gossiping about the eventual beer consumption. Some were excited while others were a bit more apprehensive. After the formal ceremonies for each graduation was over, the beer vendor began selling beer. Yes, there was a beer vendor at middle school and high school graduations. The line grew quickly. Men and women would approach the window and purchase a box of beer. Each comes with 12 big bottles (24 oz. if my college days don’t mistake me). The boxes of beer then become the center pieces of the family drinking circles. Towers of beer began taking form. I think one family had upwards of 30 boxes. I remember at one point in the night, looking over and only see the eyes and hat of a grandfatherly figure sticking out above his castle of beer. The professors and I had a modest 3 boxes for a group of about 15 people. We sat, shared beer and talked. When the band would play we would stand up to dance. The beer still made its rounds between the dancing pairs. Customarily, men would ask women to dance. But according to a professor a lot has changed and now women also ask men to dance. I experienced both ends of this gender binary. Female professors were asking me to share a dance. I also made sure to ask my host-sister and host-mom to dance with me as well.

The beer drinking did not stop. The drinking circles continued sipping. The orquestra would take breaks to drink also. Bottles could be heard being dropped and broken. Beer even was being thrown about in the crowd. I wish I could say there was no under aged drinking (legal age is 18). Most of the kids were running around and playing while others were dancing. There was hide and go seek and fire crackers. For the most part, they weren’t drinking. But after a few hours, everyone seemed to care less. Some of the students from my school were drinking and dancing. Some were even struggling to maintain control. I ended taking three out of the dance hall to go to the bathroom and get some air. I tried to get them to go home, but they were back dancing before I knew it. I guess that’s not really my place anyway.


 

In general both of the promotions felt like an opportunity for the community to gather. The kids were completing major stepping stones in their education. For many, they are the first in their family to finish their primary or secondary education. Besides this, it was an opportunity for the families to get out of the house, away from work and into a social setting. They put on their nicer and cleaner clothes, jewellery, their dancing shoes and came with high spirits. Both of the promotions came at the end of the calendar year. Because of this the primary school graduation also felt like a a New Year’s bash. There were so many community members that they were spilling out of the dance hall and into the street.

Both of these experiences were interesting looks into the Peruvian promotion culture. I was happy to be invited and even happier to push through the reluctance of going. These types of events are important for me. They serve not only as learning opportunities but also opportunities for integration. The more time in public and the more time being with my community members (yes, that means drinking some beer also), the better. It’s how I attempt to build confianza (trust). This not only helps me in my work endeavours but also in creating a more authentic and culturally immersive experience.

And now, a lesson in dancing:

Master’s Research: Theoretical Foundations, Part 6

Indigenous Politics & Rural Lifeworlds

Historically the Peruvian State has been responsible for the seizure, exploitation and destruction of indigenous communities’ lands (WRM 2011). All of which began during the Spanish colonization, continued throughout numerous presidencies, and arguably, still outlasts today. For the purposes of this paper, attention will be paid specifically to the Presidencies of Alan Garcia and Alberto Fujimori. The reason for this is because of the intimate connection between their individual political maneuvers and the larger neoliberal hegemony of land management and industrial agriculture. Then the focus will extend beyond the indigenous politics of Peru specifically, and provide cross-disciplinary theoretical groundwork from scholars who specialize in studies of indigeneity.

The Double Edged Sword: Garcia & Fujimori

Alan Garcia’s first term (1985-1990) supported a strong capitalist ideology and has been characterized as heavily anti-communist (Drinot 2014b). Part of this ideology was the idea that indigeneity was an obstruction to Peruvian national advancement. So much so, that Drinot (2014b) describes Garcia’s presidency as “an attempt to overcome indigeneity, to de-indianize Peru” (p. 172). Drinot (2014b) goes onto explain that Garcia’s solution to the numerous problems the country was facing—such as the occupation of Sendero Luminso and debilitating poverty levels— was “[…] a Peru free from the backwardness of its indigenous population, or, more precisely, from the threat to the neoliberal revolution represented by the backwardness of the indigenous population” (p. 181, emphasis in the original). In other words, Peruvian indigenous populations’ “alternative pathways” for living—their culture, lifestyles and survival strategies— were considered in direct contradistinction to the neoliberal hegemony that Garcia was attempting to push forward (Hess 2007).

This much was true for the Presidency of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) as well. Under the Fujimori government, the rights of indigenous populations were further subordinated by laws that subjugated the inalienability of indigenous communal land. Despite the 1970s agrarian land reform, which was responsible for decentralizing millions of hectares of land previously dominated by large haciendas and granting them back to farmer cooperatives, Fujimori’s government returned to large-scale, industrial land ownership (Burneo 2011). Fujimori’s agrarian reforms allowed indirect management, mortgage and sale of Peruvian lands (to foreign investors), as well as corporate ownership of lands. Following the 1990s, 36,150 hectares were sold by small farmers in the Chira Valley, an important farming area off the Pacific coast. Of these, 13,500 hectares were acquired by just five companies (Burneo 2011).

In addition, Fujimori declared any ‘uncultivated’ lands to become property of the State. This declaration led to the appropriation of many farmers’ properties who strategically allowed their land to fallow in between cultivations (Burneo 2011). In her book about French colonialism in North Africa, Davis (2007) outlines a similar process carried out by the French and inflicted upon the Algerians. What the two scenarios have in common is that they each shed a light on the necessity for capitalist and neoliberal land management regimes to constantly consume land, because after all, any uncultivated land is unproductive land. They also elucidate the controversy that can arise between two opposing ways of knowing and interacting with the natural environment.  The indigenous perspective understands fallow land as an important step in the process of agricultural cultivation, while the capitalist and industrial perspective understands fallow land as an irrational waste of space.

Articulations and Assumptions of Indigeneity  

The presidencies of Garcia and Fujimori have a couple things in common when it comes to their treatment of the indigenous populations in Peru. They each were successful at subordinating and detaching indigenous Peruvians from their traditional lands on behalf of (neo)liberalizing their economy. In addition, they each constructed visions for their country, informed by neoliberal economic theory and land management policies, that did not align with the “articulations of indigeneity” that were also present at the time. Muehlmann (2009) explains that articulations of indigeneity “are used to denote the way that groups come to express particular collective political identities and manage to connect these identities to wider discourses and social forces at different historical conjunctures” (p. 476). In other words, the ways in which indigenous populations construct their collective identity, and the ways in which governments construct their political agenda, as well as the visions of their citizenship, can sometimes be in resonance or contradiction with one another. In identity politics, articulation helps explains how certain viewpoints (indigenous or not) are created and employed in order to agree or disagree with the wider political and ideological trends. In indigenous politics specifically, this conceptualization helps shed light on which indigenous articulations are deemed agreeable and for what reasons, as well as, which articulations are considered failures (Muehlmann 2009). This sort of complexity reminds us that “environmental conflicts are never just about the environment” (Muehlmann 2009: 477) but instead, are also highly politicized, ideological and cultural.

The GMO moratorium in Peru is a curious case. On one hand, we see an articulation of indigeneity that has been, and still is, in opposition to large scale industrial agriculture and the usage of transgenics.  This articulation contradicts certain government agencies, such as MINAG and INIA, as well as multinational corporations attempting to open trade with Peru. On the other hand, we see an articulation that is gaining social and political traction. Both governmental and non-governmental agencies, such as MINAM and PPPLT, resonate with an articulation of indigeneity that seeks to preserve diversity and rural lifeways. The moratorium is largely a political maneuver, however, much of its support arises from indigenous populations themselves and activists for indigenous rights. There seems to be then, a bifurcated articulation of indigeneity that directly contradicts proponents who support an industrial and biotechnological vision of the future, while simultaneously agreeing with other political actors and their desires for a non-transgenic Peru.

Ultimately what Muehlmann’s (2009) conceptualization elucidates is the difficulty with defining and identifying ‘indigenous’ or ‘indigeneity’— no matter whether that identification comes from outside or inside of the indigenous group (Kuper 2003).  Related to that is the difficulty to delineate what indigenous needs and wants are or should be. Part of that is because of their historic and systemic alienation from important decision making processes about their own livelihoods. It also has to do with the saliency of assumptions and mythologies built into many Western or non-indigenous imaginaries of indigenous populations (Kuper 2003; Redford 1991).

One of these myths is that indigenous individuals and communities are inherently averse to development. Their aversion then, is a product of the “fact” that their ways of living, predicated on harmonious interaction with the natural environment, is perfect and needs not to develop. This assumption of inherent superiority—when it comes to land management, subsistence living and natural resource usage— is what is responsible for the creation of the ‘ecologically noble savage’ (Redford 1991). This ideal articulation of indigeneity, built upon its previous conception, the ‘noble savage’, is the idea that indigenous lifestyles do not denigrate the environment, and because of this, are superior to industrial or developed strategies, suggesting that they should be preserved and even replicated (Redford 1991). However, evidence from within the field of anthropology shows us that this is not necessarily the case (Kuper 2003; Redford 1991).

In reality, contemporary indigenous populations, much like the ones in Peru, have undergone continual socio-cultural change. Very few groups, if any at all, have lived in complete isolation. Instead they have migrated, merged, changed languages, social organizations and modes of subsistence (Kuper 2003). Much like group identities in urban settings or developed nations, in rural areas there is constant intra- and inter-group redefinitions or articulations of indigenous identity, material ways of living, and epistemological ways of knowing. In discussing older indigenous groups Redford (1991) explains, “these people behaved as humans do now: they did whatever they had to feed themselves and their families. “Whatever they had to” is the key phrase in understanding the problem of the noble savage myth in its contemporary version. Countless examples make it clear that indigenous people can be either forced, seduced, or tempted into accepting new methods, new crops, and new technologies.”

This much is true for what is occurring with the GMO moratorium in Peru. The ecologically noble savage articulation of indigeneity is being summoned as one the major anti-biotech arguments.  Redford (1991) explains, “to believe that when confronted with market pressures, higher population densities, and increased sedentism most indigenous peoples will maintain the integrity of their traditional methods is not only to argue against the available evidence, but worse, to fall into the ideological trap that produced the ecologically noble savage.” Instead, he argues, “we must face the fact that in many cases, when we dream of the ecologically noble Indian whose knowledge will save us from the consequences of modern development, we dream an old dream, whose roots stretch back to the Garden of Eden and beyond.” Redford (1991) is not meaning to downplay the importance of indigenous groups and their traditional knowledge systems and ways of living. Instead he is making a call for a more realistic, less essentialist conceptualization of indigeneity. One that is not based in mythological assumptions, but rather, one built on the grounds of indigenous self-identification and determination.

The summoning and employment of the ecologically noble savage in order to argue against biotechnology in Peru is not unique. This phenomenon extends from the micro and localized interactions occurring within Peru to the macro and global trends of indigenous politics more generally. The actors and institutions responsible for spreading neoliberalism in the world system have now inserted themselves into the economic and socio-cultural spheres of Peruvian indigenous politics. In discussing the intersection of neoliberalism and indigeneity, Hale (2002) argues that one of the problems “behind the advance of neoliberalism is the absence of utopian language to talk about, inspire and imagine political alternatives” (p. 524). In other words, in the current neoliberal rhetoric, there is no space for language that clearly defines the necessity for diverse articulations of indigeneity and alternative pathways to living. Due to this grim reality, Hale (2002) explains, “to engage in progressive politics in Central –and South] America today— perhaps more than any other moment in the last century— is to travel uncharted territory, with maps from a past era that must be consulted, but often end up being more a hindrance than a guide” (p. 524).

Master’s Research: Theoretical Foundations, Part 5

Politics & Science

When thinking about the Peruvian moratorium on GMOs it is important to consider the relationship between science and politics. Specifically, Habermas (1970) writes about the scientization of politics. This process, similar to Weber’s (1958) ideas on bureaucratization, goes one step further by politicizing the issue. The scientization of politics highlights a shift towards a technocratic model of governmentality in which politics is replaced by scientifically rationalized administrations (Habermas 1970). It is crucial to note that this process can be somewhat self-destructive. Leaning on scientific claims in order support political ideologies is risky because scientists struggle to elucidate definitive answers (Beck 1992). This may result in a collapse or ‘detraditionalization’ of scientific power due to the porous and controversial quality of the findings or arguments (Lidskog & Sundqvist 2010), therefore generating gaps in which alternative voices and lay perspectives may insert themselves into the debate, weakening expert scientific prowess.

Nonetheless, scholars interested in the sociology of science and technology argue we operate within a scientized political hegemony. This ideology stands on the grounds of scientism, and dominates the production, implementation and regulation of transgenics. According to Kinchy, Kleinman and Autry (2008), scientism “is the belief that policy is best dictated by scientific reasoning, since science is presumed to transcend human values and interests and to provide answers upon which all can agree (p. 156). The authors further politicize their argument by writing, “scientism contributed to this project [of neoliberalism] by delegitimizing messy political debates in favor of “value free” assessments of risks and benefits” (Kinchy, Kleinman & Autry 2008 (156). In other words, the dual discourses of neoliberalism and scientism rationalize a position of minimal regulation of GMOs by squelching the voices outside the scientized political field, making any sort of decision about the regulation of GMOs seem scientifically sound and inevitable. This process is a major issue, especially for developing countries like Peru, because it bolsters policies that subordinate the cultural and economic interests of small farmers while favoring biotech corporations and the governments who are interested in those companies’ investments (Kinchy, Kleinman & Autry 2008).

What we have then is a rift between two opposing modalities of knowing and decision making—scientific, expert knowledge and laymen and traditional environmental knowledge. This clash of two oppositional “politics of knowledge” (Goldman & Turner 2011) can be examined by applying Anderson’s (2002) conceptualization of post-colonial technoscience. This vein picks up on the back end of the scientization of politics. In other words, post-colonial technoscience can be viewed as the end, or result of an increasingly scientized and neoliberal hegemony— particularly when dealing with the relationship between two nations, such as Peru and the United States. Knowing this, it is argued that post-colonial technoscience seeks to expand the boundaries of Western scientism engaging with the complex reconfigurations of knowledge, violence, culture and scientific characteristics that transcend the boundaries of nations-states, and instead become embedded within an “emerging global order” (Anderson (2002: 643).

By applying the post-colonial technoscientific framework to Peru, critiques of the neoliberal hegemonic rhetoric can be elucidated. It can be argued that material violence is occurring to Peruvian farmers and environment through the implementation of biotechnology (funded and implemented by top-down pressure from the Peruvian State and Western multinational corporations) which then has the potential to degrade traditional, often indigenous environmental knowledge and lifestyles. Taken one step further, violence can also occur “epistemologically by denying the legitimacy of other ways of knowing and managing nature” (Goldman & Turner 2011: 17). In a commentary on biotechnology, Shiva (1995) echoes this argument by writing, “ecological erosion and destruction of livelihoods are linked to one another. Displacement of diversity and of people’s sustenance both arise from a view of development and growth based on uniformity […] In this process of control, reductionist science and technology act as handmaidens for economically powerful interests” (p.198-199).

Fortunately, thanks to the moratorium on GMOs, this type of neo-colonial and epistemological violence has been postponed for the time being. A lot of energy and effort—on behalf of activists, scientists and government officials—has been placed into enacting the moratorium. Goldman and Turner (2011) argue that environmental knowledge is “embodied in local contexts” and that it “is framed, funded and publicized in widely different social arenas” (p. 3). Luckily for anti-biotech supports in Peru, these knowledges from various social arenas have coalesced into a unified social movement. By doing so, they “fight to ensure that expert discourse does not overshadow citizens’ perspectives on environmental, social, economic, and moral issues in decisions about scientific and technological developments” (Kinchy 2012: 16), because after all, “opposition to [genetically-engineered] crops is a struggle over material resources […] These struggles are, at the same time, battles over meaning, classification, and cultural rules” (Kinchy 2012: 12).

The moratorium on transgenics in Peru reflects an important pushback to the industrialization of agriculture sustained by the entanglement of neoliberalism and scientism. Despite the moratorium being only a buffer for the potential future introduction of transgenics on a massive scale (assuming the Peruvian government solidifies a proper governance apparatus), it represents the power of social movements as well as the weakness of a scientized and neoliberal hegemony. “If we acknowledge that neoliberalism is a policy discourse, the ascendancy of which was by no means inevitable, it is analytically possible to see that neoliberalism”, along with inequitable and scientized political debate, can be confronted by utilizing the appropriate mixture of social, cultural, economic and scientific arguments (Kinchy, Kleinman & Autry 2008: 154). Where these arguments come from and how they are arranged into a unitary voice is contextual and will change depending on the country, type of government power and citizenship participation. What is important to include in whatever case, especially for countries where rural lifestyles are still a major part of contemporary life, is the perspectives these individuals, and in the case of Peru, of the indigenous voices.

Master’s Research: Theoretical Foundations, Part 4

Theoretical Foundations

Certain theoretical frameworks or “currents of thought” (Schram 2006: 63) will inform this proposal and the eventual research that is to be completed in Peru. By beginning with a discussion of neoliberalism, the paper will present the political hegemony that dominates the following sections—governance, politics and science, and rural (often indigenous) lifeworlds. In other words, neoliberalism, and its ability to permeate into, and influence the myriad of spheres contained within the social world, applies top-down pressure on each of the theoretical discussions presented below. This understanding of neoliberalism, along with its various conceptualizations and critiques from scholars in the field, will extend outward from the presence of neoliberalism in Peru specifically, to the neoliberal world-system, especially agricultural system, more generally.

Neoliberalism in Peru  

According to Kinchy, Kleinman & Autry (2008), “neoliberalization is an explicit political project not a structural inevitability” (p. 148). While for Bourdieu (1998), neoliberalism is “a myth in the strong sense of the word, an idee force, an idea which has social force, which obtains belief” (p. 34). Combining these two ideas, we see that for Peru, this is absolutely true. The neoliberal hegemony that took control of Peru during the Presidency of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) was made possible because of a series of specific and deliberate policy changes that supported a certain belief about the future. At the time, Peru was in the middle of the “deepest crisis ever faced by the Peruvian nation-state” (Drinot 2014a: 2).  Four-figure inflation, declining GDP and per capita income, along with violence and terrorism from the guerrilla movement “Sendero Luminoso” were just a few of the State’s major problems (Graham & Kane 1998). Drinot (2014a) explains that “these two processes overlap in time” and can be seen as “interconnected” (p. 2). Drinot (2014a) goes on to explain, “it was the depth of the crisis generated by the internal armed conflict (and the economic mismanagement of the governments in the 1980s) that created the conditions for neoliberal reforms to be implemented with little to no opposition” (p.2).  Because of this, in what has been described as complete “authoritarianism”, Fujimori’s new government, in conjunction with the World Bank and International Monetary fund and inspired by a progressive belief about the future, began a “shock therapy” style structural adjustment plan (Drinot 2014a). This program has been perpetuated throughout the following Presidencies, and continues to dominate the political sphere in Peru to this day. However, Law No. 29811 —although largely a maneuver to give time in order to create neoliberal governance strategies for transgenics—is an example of pushback against this neoliberal narrative; suggesting, perhaps, neoliberalism’s ideological and political vulnerability.

What occurred during the Presidency of Fujimori, and the resulting socio-political ideologies that manifested, aligns with Brenner & Theodore’s (2002) definition of neoliberalism: the “belief that open, competitive, and unregulated markets, liberated from all forms of state interference, represent the optimal mechanism for economic development” (p. 350). Much of what Fujimori did, along with the following presidents such as Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) and Alan Garcia (2006-2011), supported massive privatization of State resources such as minerals & natural gas (Bury 2005), and paved the way for immense foreign direct investment from developed nations. Despite the neoliberal readjustments initially leading to a more profound recession in the first two years, they did achieve some improvements in terms of macroeconomic stabilization (Drinot 2014a; Graham & Kane 1998). For example, by 1994, inflation had fallen to 15.4% and in 1997 it was in single figures again (6.5%). GDP began to rise again from 1993; in 1994 it reached 13.1% and remained positive in the years that followed (INEI, 1998). These economic improvements produced welfare gains for the country and helped reduce the poverty level. One way the adjustment achieved this was by enlarging the Peruvian middle-class and developing new consumption patterns that transformed large parts of urban Peru (Drinot 2014a).

These examples of neoliberalization, rationalized through the idea that macroeconomic development would serve as a panacea for Peruvian poverty and inequality, also had adverse effects on Peruvian women (Hays-Mitchell 2002) and particularly rural Peruvian farmers in the Andean highlands (Drinot 2014a). Crabtree (2002) argues that the “consequence of economic liberalization seems to have been to increase rather than diminish inequality” in Peru (p. 133). In fact, it has been found that the neoliberal restructuring of the Peruvian economy (and emphasis on biotechnology) has led to “a concentration of economic power among larger and more efficient producers and to the detriment of small-scale producers” (Crabtree 2002: 155). Such much so, that small-scale Peruvian farmers have “had to weather the impact of adverse macroeconomic policies that reduced the demand for food, trade policies that encouraged competing imports, and sectoral policies designed to remove the state from active involvement in agriculture” (Crabtree 2002: 155).

Neoliberalism in Peru has led to dichotomized outcomes that run parallel to the macro and micro heuristic ways of thinking. In other words, the neoliberalization of Peru has led to some macroeconomic improvements, while also creating some problems on the micro or individual levels. Rural Peruvian populations in general, along with women and farmers specifically, have struggled to keep up with the rapid neoliberalization of Peru. All the while, the Peruvian elite and country as a whole, as well as other developed nations responsible for pumping investment into the economy, continue to benefit. Knowing this, and by ‘extending’ outward, in Burawoy’s (1998) sense of the word, we begin to see how what is happening in Peru connects with what is occurring on a global scale. Specifically, we begin to see how the controversy over biotechnology and the use of transgenics in Peru, inundated by and embedded within a neoliberal political and economic hegemony, relates to the wider academic and international discrepancies over the governance of GMOs.

Biotechnology Governance

According to Winickoff et al. (2005), there are two divergent regulatory philosophies that dominant the controversy over governing transgenics: the ‘products approach’ and the ‘process approach’. According to them, the fundamental question that divides the two is “whether to assess genetically modified risk on the basis of the products themselves, or on the basis of the underlying production processes” (Winickoff et al. 2005: 87, emphasis in the original). Winickoff et al. 2005 explain that “the products approach to regulating GMOs assumes that no untoward risk occurs merely from applying this technology to agricultural production (p. 87). In other words, the products approach for regulating GMOs assumes that no risks are involved in the process or application of transgenics. If the science and product itself is well-designed and an appropriate regulatory apparatus is put into place, then usage of transgenics is considered safe.

In contrast, the “process approach rests on the idea that genetic engineering itself may entail novel and unique risks to human health or the environment” (Winickoff et al. 2005: p. 87). This regulatory philosophy is inevitably more precautionary. In other words, the process approach assumes that a certain level of unknown exists about the process of using transgenics and that this process may include hazards, to both the environment and humans, that modern science does not yet fully understand. This regulatory mindset falls in line with Beck’s (1992) conceptualization of the risk society—that as an industrialized society, we create risks, and combat those risks, with technologies whose ramifications have yet to be fully flushed out.  In general, the United States has embraced the products approach for regulating GMOs, as it parallels more closely to the neoliberal ideology. This thinking places the upmost power upon modern science and trusts that regulation, no matter how intense or shoddy, will keep the environment safe. In support of this idea, Kinchy, Kleinman & Autry (2008) explain, “we continue to find close links between neoliberal policy ideas and scientism; the two discourses work together to promote a policy of minimal regulation of biotechnology” (p. 168). The European Union on the other hand, and other developed nations, have historically approached the idea of transgenics with more caution (Winickoff et al. 2005). Knowing this, and understanding that constructions about the importance of science and legitimated knowledge can differ, it is important to take a look at the role of science in creating governance techniques over GMOs.

Similar to the dichotomized arrangement of the ‘product’ and ‘process’ regulatory philosophies, Quark (2011) arranges her thinking around two important foci: the ‘world polity’ and ‘world-system’ ideologies. In doing so, Quark (2011) attempts to address the involvement of science in the construction of governance arrangements. Using the world polity framework, culture becomes the emphasis rather than the economy, politics or power (Pellow & Brehm 2013). Science becomes the most widely accepted, and global means for measurement and action.  This idea is based on the cultural understanding that science is universal, and most importantly, value neutral. In other words, the world polity ideology assumes an essentialist and scientist mindset when it comes to the creation of governance strategies for transgenics.

On the other hand, the world system ideology understands science as a mechanism for the global elite to dominate the world system (Quark 2011). This Marxist understanding, informed by Wallerstein’s (2004) arrangement of the capitalist world system, sees global governance occurring through the creation and application of certain types of science.  Quark (2011) explains, “this competition for legitimating knowledge”, between the world polity and world system ideologies, “helps us to understand how new governance networks are constructed that draw diverse actors together to legitimate certain constellations of science, technology and power” (p. 913). She goes on to say, “struggles over standards are thus shaped by the access to resources and research legacies, as well as the competition to define what science will be accepted as legitimate” (p. 913).

The world polity and world system approaches both acknowledge the important role that science plays in the governance of transgenics. Similarly, they both intersect with the product and process philosophies presented by Winickoff et al. (2005). The world polity ideology aligns with the product approach for regulation—both subsume a legitimized and essentialist power into modern science. In other words, both the world polity and products approaches support a scientist mentality for governing transgenics; each informed by and created by neoliberal tendencies to generate markets for genetically modified products themselves (i.e. seeds) and to decentralize regulation from State authority while simultaneously shifting the onus into the privatized and third-party realms of transgenic governmentality. “Traditionally, it was predominately government agencies that were responsible for monitoring food safety standards and food quality attributes. However, the globalization of the agrifood system, the consolidation of the food retail industry, and the rise in private retailer standards have precipitated a shift in responsibility for this task to third-party certifiers” (Hatanaka, Bain & Busch 2005: 355).

On the other hand, the world system and process approaches towards governing transgenics complicate the issue. Each is embedded with a more intense precautionary principle. [DM1] In other words, both the world system and process approaches understand the complexity and risk involved with both the usage and regulation of GMOs. These ideologies agree that the process from a transgenic product to implementation and regulation are laden with unavoidable power dynamics and inequitable constructions of legitimized (and therefore alienated) knowledge systems. The world system and process approaches understand how scientism and scientization can directly impact how transgenics are governed. Quark (2011) sheds light on this influence when she writes, “first, scientization can formalize existing power inequalities given the uneven terrain of research legacies. Second, as scientization channels politics through science, powerful actors are better situated to legitimate their own interests in scientific terms and to define what makes science legitimate” (p. 895). This intersection, between science and politics, proves to be the means through which a governance strategy comes to fruition, both in Peru and in the world system more generally.