Master’s Research: References, Part 9

References

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Estrada, E. & Hondagneu-Sotelo, P. 2013. “Living the Third Shift. Latina Adolescent Street Vendors in Los Angeles.” In Immigrant Women Workers in the Neoliberal Age. (eds.) Nilda Flores-Gonzalez, Anna Romina Guevarra, Maura Toro-Morn & Grace Chang. University of Illinois Press.

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Hale, Charles R. 2002. “Does Multiculturalism Menace? Governance, Cultural Rights and the Politics of Identity in Guatemala.” Journal of Latin American Studies 34(3): 485-524.

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Hays-Mitchell, M. 2002. Resisting Austerity: A Gendered Perspective on Neoliberal Restructuring in Peru. Gender & Development. Vol. 10(3): 71-81.

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Hine, C. 2007. “Multi-Ethnography as a Middle Range Methodology for Contemporary STS.” Science, Technology, & Human Values. Vol. 32(6): 652-671.

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Kinchy, A. 2012. Seeds, Science, and Struggle. The Global Politics of Transgenic Crops. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kinchy, A., Kleinman, D. L. & Autry, R. 2008. “Against Free Markets, Against Science? Regulating the Socio‐Economic Effects of Biotechnology” Rural Sociology. 73 (2): 147-179.

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Lofland, J. & Lyn, H. 1995. Analyzing Social Settings. Belmont: Wadsworth.

Luker, K. 2010. Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences:  Research in an Age of Info-Glut. Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press.

Marcus, G. E. 1995. “Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of the Multi-Sited Ethnography.” Annual Review of Anthropology. 24: 95-117.

Marshall, C. and Rossman, B. G. 2016. Designing Qualitative Research, Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications.

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Quark, A. A. 2012. “Scientized Politics and Global Governance in the Cotton Trade: Evaluating Divergent Theories of Scientization.” Review of International Political Economy. 19(5): 895-917.

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Roschelle, R. A., Toro-Morn, I. M. & Facio, E. 2010. “Toward a Feminist Methodological Approach to the Intersection of Race, Class, and Gender: Lessons from Cuba.” Advances in Gender Research.  Vol. 14: 357-380.

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A Lesson Learned: Harvesting Green Beans

It is about that time of the year when farmers are beginning to harvest their crops. Everyday there is less and less corn in the valley. Big trucks park themselves near the farms and unload workers. They start early in the morning when everything is still wet from the rains the night before and work until about midday–just about when it’s getting too hot. They cut the corn stalks, remove the cobs and fill giant, back breaking sacks. When the field has been leveled, they let the bulls and cows go to work. They eat whatever is left in the field leaving only empty rows of dirt.

In my case, we harvest green beans. My family does not grow any corn. I am secretly grateful or that because the thought of wrestling stalks of corn and hoisting bags of cobs that weigh more than me sounds exhausting. Cute little green beans are more my jam. Or any food/veggie that comfortably fits in my hands like the peaches, I enjoyed harvesting the peaches.

By this time of the year, the green beans are in full form. The plants come up to about my knees. It felt like they came out of nowhere. In fact, they came in so quickly, that I had a hard time finding the chacra because the previously empty crop lines were now full of green beans. I was definitely disorientated considering this was my first harvest. I finally made it down to the farm and managed to find a path that crushed minimal amounts of beans. This is a common theme for me in Peru—walking and trying not to hit or bump into things. Many things in my community—such as doors, cars, roofs and chairs—were definitely not built with a 6’2 gringo in mind. That’s including the crop lines.

I arrived and my family was already there. This is another common theme. Despite the fact that I think I wake up early, my family is already up and going. The kids are playing, dad is off to work, mom is washing clothes and grandma is cooking something. In this case, I arrived late because I didn’t want to rush through my morning routine. As of lately it goes like this: I wake up and meander down to breakfast. After that, I return back to my room to make tea or coffee, sometimes both. While I do that, I watch the news—and by news I mean old Vice documentaries. After that, I practice yoga. At that point I am ready to go.

So anyway, I’m late to the family farm. As I arrive the sun immediately comes out. Therefore, I am immediately overdressed. Thoughts of my mom (my actual mom) scolding me about not wearing sunscreen pop into my ahead. Coincidently, my host-mom makes a gringo joke about how I am going to burn. She also makes sure to tell me it’s my fault that the sun came out. As this is happening, everyone takes out their hats, soaks them in water and continues to work. They hand me a bucket and point to a line of green beans that I am supposed to work.  I’m off to the races.

As I got to working I quickly figured out a few things:

  • I am way too big to harvest green beans. Originally I thought the small size and light weight would be a good thing. I was wrong. My height just means I am farther from the ground and have to bend over more. Sure I can hold a lot of beans in my hands, but damn my back hurt. I eventually remedied this situation by sitting on the bucket I was supposed to be filling. This helped relieve some pressure in my back and legs. It also compensated for the fact that I can’t squat down very well. My heels always pop up, placing all the weight in my toes. So I would sit on the bucket, fill both hands with beans and then empty them through the hole between my legs.

  • I am way to slow when I harvest green beans. My host-family would put in laps while I was still working on my row. They pick with both hands, command control of the plants and have no mercy—everything goes in the bucket. Me on the other hand, well, I am slow. I don’t position myself correctly, and I examine every bean. The big ones are exciting. And I like to pop open the ones I think have pests in them. I didn’t develop the double hand technique until about an hour into the harvest. When I did though, I did begin to keep up. I also was way too delicate with the plants. The best way is to grab hold, pull it to the side to expose the beans and start yanking. Not calmly part the leaves and look for the beans as if I am braiding someone’s hair. Eventually I got this strategy down also. A few times though, I went too rough and completely tore the plant from the ground.

  • Kids are always kids, even when harvesting green beans. As I made my way through my rows, my host brother made sure to let me know it was a competition. He wanted to see who could pick faster and who could fill their buckets quicker. When I got too close to his row, he would make sure to correct me. Meanwhile, my baby host-sister was highly distracting. She was constantly calling my name and the names of her siblings. She would pick beans and throw them at her brother. She also loved crawling into the old sacks of fertilizers we were using to transport the beans and try and walk. She fell over multiple times, always laughing. Having the kids around was a nice break from the monotony of picking beans. When I got bored, I could make jokes with them, steal my brother’s beans, and pretend to use the really curly beans as cell phones.

  • Harvesting green beans is a family affair. The more hands, the better. In our case, the only person missing was my host-dad. To take his place though, were some members of the extended family. They work year round on the farm, helping to plant and harvest. When my host-mom or grandma go to sell the crops, they get cut into the profit. In total there was about 10 of us. The experience seemed to be gendered also. There were only 2 men, myself and another. The rest were women. Strong, hard working and efficient Andean women. This seems to be the trend for other harvests as well. Except for corn. Corn seems to be a man thing. Probably because of the stereotypes about masculinity and harder, heavier and rougher physical labor. This stereotype manifested in the green bean harvest also. When the buckets were full and ready to be transferred to the sacks, it was always a man who did the lifting. Otherwise, the woman presence was powerful and intimidating.
  • Lastly, being a dog during the green bean harvest is the life you want to live. The family dogs would just follow us through the rows and find shade beneath the plants. They slept and tried to eat the flies that would fly around their faces. If they got in the way of the harvest though, damn would grandma get pissed.

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.

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.