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: 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.


Master’s Research: Introduction, Part 3

The Development of Law No. 29811

On December 9, 2011, under the Presidency of Ollanta Humala (2011-2016), the Peruvian government approved Law 29811 enacting a ten-year moratorium on GMOs. The moratorium was the product of a 20-year process that began in the early 1990s. It included a multitude of stakeholders, including anti-transgenic activists, scientists, non-governmental organizations, farmers and the Peruvian government. It is important to know that up until 2006, the discussions of transgenics were limited to Peruvian political leaders, International Conventions and resulting legislative maneuvers. It was not until 2006 did the debate over transgenics become more inclusive (Martinez & Pinzás 2014). Each of these groups participated in the convoluted process, some specializing in scientific and political debate, while others focusing the on preservation of Peru’s biodiversity, and protection of rural, often Indigenous, farming lifestyles.

The debate over the varied impacts of transgenics began to take form in 1992 with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Interested in the CBD, Peru sent a committee to participate. Having agreed with parameters of the CBD, concerning the safe handling of, and potential impacts from the transfer of GMOs, the Peruvian delegation signed the convention. The CBD would prove to be the first international instrument focusing on biotechnology—followed up later by the Cartagena Protocol on the Safety of Modern Biotechnology.

Continued progress towards the usage of the transgenic in Peru was made in 1994, under the Presidency of Alberto Fujimori. President Fujimori, along with the National Environmental Council (CONAM), enacted Law No. 26410 which was designed to formulate, coordinate, and evaluate a new environmental policy. Shortly after, in 1999, Law No. 27104, or the ‘Biosafety Law’ was also put into place. This law established the necessary provisions and Peruvian agencies—such as the National Agricultural Research Institute (INIA) and the Directorate General of Environmental Health (DIGESA)—that would be in charge of biotechnological governance in Peru (Martinez & Pinzás 2014). It was designed to run parallel with the parameters launched by the CBD in 1992, providing guidelines and creating methods for acquiring approval for the regulation and release of transgenics within Peruvian borders.

In 1999 a committee was formed within the CONAM to deliberate about biosafety. The committee included experts from the field as well as members from civil society organizations. Included in the CONAM committee was Dr. Alexander Grobman, a renowned supporter of biotechnology, consultant to the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAG), and president of PeruBiotech—a private association for the development of biotechnology. Grobman openly argued that biosafety measures, and other anti-transgenics regulations, would “hinder” Peru’s development and prevent the country from escaping poverty and debilitating food insecurity (Martinez & Pinzás 2014).

Just four years later, in 2003, the Peruvian Association of Consumers and Users (ASPEC), a NGO designed to protect consumers’ rights, carried out a campaign to raise Peruvian awareness about transgenics. Much to their chagrin, the initiative was unsuccessful due to the lack of participation from major civil society actors, as well as limited media attention. Despite the shortcomings of the ASPEC, the association represented a deliberate expansion of stakeholder voices in the debate over GMOs.

In July of 2004, the Cartagena Protocol, which was signed in 2000, was finally approved by the Peruvian Congress. It is important to note that during the debates of Protocol, the Peruvian delegation openly opposed and voted against the binding instrument—a tool designed make corporations responsible for the potential negative impacts of GMOs (Martinez & Pinzás 2014). Their outright voting against this portion of the Protocol crystallized Peru’s support of transgenics. Despite the Peruvian delegation’s opposition to the binding instrument, a consensus was reached in favor of the binding agreement, solidifying corporate responsibly for any negative externalities as a result of transgenics.

On July 11, 2006, Peru’s Congress approved the General Law for the Development of Modern Biotechnology. This new law provoked vehement opposition from NGOs and other anti-transgenics activists. The big problem revolved around the issues of patentability of biotechnological inventions (intellectual property) and the rights of indigenous peoples over their traditional knowledge and practices related to their biodiverse cultural heritage (Martinez & Pinzás 2014. For the first time light was shed upon the epistemological dichotomy of different types of knowledges. Due to this controversy, the CONAM was increasingly cautious about the outcomes of the new law, however, other agencies such as the MINAG and INIA, were openly in favor of allowing GMOs into the country. Later that year, after many arduous debates, the Peruvian government signed a Free Trade Agreement (TLC) with the United States. This maneuver, symbolic of the increasing neoliberalization in Peru, created a path for the entry of transgenics into Peru’s borders.

From 2006 to the Moratorium

Up until 2006 much of the debate over transgenics, and the laws resulting from the discussions, were largely exclusive. To a large part, many civil society organizations (CSOs) and other NGOs were not included. As Isabel Lapeña of the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA) and a member of the committee for the discussion on biosafety points out, “we had reached a point where the (position) seemed won by the protransgenic sector because the whole legislative landscape had been modified to favour the entry of transgenics into Peru” (Martinez & Pinzás 2014: 10). The second stage of the debate, beginning in 2007 and running up until the moratorium in 2011, was characterized by the amplified involvement of NGOs and CSOs in the controversy over transgenics in Peru.
Much of that increased participation began in 2007 with an important allegation on behalf of Dr. Antonietta Gutierrez, a biologist from the National Agrarian University La Molina and director of the Sustainable Environmental Development Association. Gutierrez reported that GMOs had been found in multiple sample sites in the valley of Barranca.  The allegation was quickly picked up and reported by leading newspapers such as El Comercio and La Republica, further increasing the level laymen participation and number of people aware about GMOs in Peru. Due to this, in October of that year, the platform group Peru Transgenic Free Country (PPPLT) was formed, consolidating multiple organizations who argued for sustainable and organic agriculture, and against the entry of GMOs into Peru (Martinez & Pinzás 2014). One year later, in 2008, Dr. Gutierrez published more results from an extended sample of the first test she carried out in 2007. In her new research, Gutierrez included the departments of Lima, Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad and Ancash. She found that samples from Lima, Piura and La Libertad contained GMOs—confirming once again the introduction of transgenics in Peruvian agriculture (Martinez & Pinzás 2014).
All the while, Peru’s economy was continuing to grow. The economic growth during this time was no doubt a result of the economic restructuring that occurred during President Fujimori’s stay in office. During his ten years of presidency (1990-2000), the neoliberal hegemony began to reach Peru and dominate Fujimori’s economic and agricultural policies. Inspired by the Washington Consensus, President Fujimori moved towards the privatization of public enterprises and liberalization of foreign trade and labor market regulations. In addition, Fujimori placed a heavy emphasis on garnering foreign direct investment (FDI), especially from exploiting natural resources such as metals, oil, gas and agriculture (Bury 2005). Since then, Peru’s participation in globalized agricultural markets has continued to grow. So much so that the Exporters Association of Peru (ADEX), have expressed their commitment to organic crops and Peru’s incompatibility with GMOs. Their worry is that an agricultural system reliant upon transgenics will only offer economic benefits for the few corporations that own the intellectual property embedded with genetically altered crops. Organic agriculture or non-genetically modified agriculture on the other hand, would benefit a wider array of Peruvian farmers and agricultural markets (Martinez & Pinzás 2014). This economic argument, in conjunction with the arguments to preserve Peruvian biodiversity and livelihoods of farmers, coalesced into a more robust argument in opposition to GMOs in Peru.

In 2008, the Ministry of the Environment (MINAM) was created and Dr. Antonio Brack was appointed as minister. Dr. Brack, an ecologist, teacher and researcher of biodiversity, publicly spoke out against the usage of transgenics. For Brack, the major issue was the potential contamination of Peru’s endemic agrobiodiversity by GMOs. The MINAM, and Brack’s appointment as Minister, helped to balance the debate over transgenics in Peru’s governmental agencies (Martinez & Pinzás 2014).  Outside of the political realm, PPPLT’s anti-transgenics actions continue to intensify. Public displays of opposition—such as marches, public statements, fairs and conferences—continued to achieve media traction. In 2009, the PPPLT proposed a measure for a 5-year moratorium on the entry of GMOs and the labelling of any product containing genetically altered material. In addition, other NGOs joined the Platform, such as the Fair Trade and Ethical Trade Network, the Avantari Naturist Centre, and the National Convention of Peruvian Agriculture (Martinez & Pinzás 2014).

Despite this growing opposition to transgenics in Peru, in April of 2011, President Alan Garcia’s administration issued Supreme Decree 003-2011-MINAG. Just three months before the terminus of his Presidency – one that had always supported the economic interests of multinational corporations—Garcia’s decree allowed farmers and corporations to acquire permits to legally use GMOs in agriculture or forestry.  These new parameters were drafted solely by the MINAG, an agency historically in support of transgenics, and without any participation from MINAM, an agency opposed to the usage of transgenics (Martinez & Pinzás 2014). Due to the lack of equitable participation, MINAM and other anti-transgenics groups responded quickly.

In response, MINAM evoked its constitutional and legal mandate to protecting Peruvian biodiversity and its endemic genetic resources.  Their argument was that an abrupt decision like the Supreme Decree 003, and the exclusion of MINAM in drafting the piece of legislation, violated their constitutional power (Martinez & Pinzás 2014). Until a collaborative agreement could be reached or a moratorium on GMOs enacted, MINAM would continue to stand in opposition to President Garcia’s last effort to allow the widespread usage of GMOs in Peru. MINAM was not the only governmental group in opposition— lower level governments and municipalities issued ordinances declaring their jurisdictions “transgenic-free territories”. In total, thirteen of Peru’s regions, including the Municipality of Lima, had done so (Martinez & Pinzás 2014). This type of widespread mobilization, from multiple strata of government, helped shrink the existing legal dichotomy between pro- and anti-transgenic supporters, as well as represent the will of lay-citizens to preserve their country’s biodiversity.

In late 2011, Manuel Pulgar Vidal was appointed the new minister of MINAM. Vidal, much like his predecessor Antonio Brack, opposed GMOs in Peru and was in full support for a moratorium. By this time, multiple pieces of legislation had reached Congress and begun the process of enacting a moratorium. Finally, on June 7, 2011 Congress adopted Law No. 28911, declaring a moratorium on the entry of transgenics into the country for a period of ten years, On December 8, 2011, under the new Presidency of Ollanta Humala, the new law was officially authorized.

The objective of Law No. 28911 is clear: to prohibit the entry—from both external importation and domestic production— of transgenics into the environment. However, this excludes GMOs that are used in confined laboratory spaces and for pharmaceutical or veterinarian uses. The moratorium goes beyond just prohibiting and sanctioning the usage of GMOs, in addition, it is also designed to develop the Peruvian government’s capacity for biosafety. According to Martinez and Pinzás, this part of the moratorium is two-fold: “to enhance regulatory and capacity building, involving the construction of programmes for the knowledge and conservation of endemic genetic resources, biotechnology and competitive development programs, as well as projects to strengthen scientific and technological capabilities; and to create a multi-sectoral advisory committee to develop tools and skills for the regulation of biotechnology, biosafety and bioethics such as technical reports, proposals and monitoring functions” (2014: 22). In other words, the moratorium is designed to give the Peruvian government more time to regulate and prepare for the eventual entry of biotechnological products within their borders.

The future of GMOs in Peru hangs in the balance. Peruvian farmers and biodiversity are protected for at least another five years. Where the country will decide to move next once the moratorium expires is not certain. The sense is that the usage of transgenics on a massive agricultural scale is somewhat inevitable. Other developed nations, interested in the economic boons of biotechnology in developing nations such as the United States, are already mobilizing to make this possible (Nolte 2016; Nolte & Beillard 2014).  Despite this, the Peruvian government wants to slow down the growth of transgenics. It is important to them to ensure that the necessary regulations and governance technologies are in place beforehand in order to mitigate the potential risks to biodiversity, the Peruvian economy, and perhaps most importantly, to Peruvian farmers and their respective lifeways. However, if this is not the wish of the Peruvian citizenship, then it will be up to the continued resistance from anti-transgenic activists, farmers and scientists, along with support from certain agencies within the Peruvian State, to continue to preserve Peru’s rich biodiversity and long agricultural and cultural history.

Master’s Research: Introduction, Part 2


            The industrialization of agriculture began to take form during what has been coined the ‘Green Revolution’. Between the 1930s and 1960s, many wealthy and developed countries, became very active in the research and development of industrial agriculture science and farming techniques. One of these techniques was bioengineering. Shortly after the onset of the Green Revolution, the first genetically engineered crop was created. In the early 1970s, a genetically altered bacteria was created to imbue strawberries with frost resistant genetic characteristics. Concerned about the disastrous spread of genetically engineered bacteria to other crops, environmental groups protested vehemently. The planting of the newly engineered strawberries was postponed for two seasons. When the crops were finally planted, the results were disappointing. Some frost protection was evident, and no ecological damage was reported. Neither the bacteria or the altered genes were found to be a hazard.   (Lappé & Bailey 1998).  In the United States, just 20 years later, agricultural crops derived from bioengineering were marketed and planted on over 30 million acres. These included herbicide resistant crops such as canola, corn, cotton and soybeans; insecticide resistant crops such as potatoes, corn, cotton; delayed ripening tomatoes; genetically altered soybeans with high-oleic acid oil; alkaline-tolerant corn; and virus resistant squash (Lappé & Bailey 1998). Today, we now have multi-national corporations—such as Dupont and Monsanto (United States), Rhône-Poulenc (France), and Ciba (Switzerland)—responsible for the monopolization of transgenic seeds and the dissemination of industrial agricultural technologies throughout the globe.

This paper will attempt pick up on the industrialization of agriculture and genetic-engineering and place it within the context of the 2011 Peruvian moratorium on GMOs. In doing so, the paper will highlight the predominance of the neoliberal economic hegemony in modern industrial agriculture and how this dominant ideology has the potential to (1) manipulate agricultural governance; (2) inform scientific debate, controversy and knowledge production; and (3) marginalize and transform traditional agricultural practices generally and Peruvian lifeways and biodiversity more specifically.

A Brief History: Genetic Engineering and Industrial Agriculture

Modern genetic engineering is the product of ancient selective breeding techniques used in raising agriculture and animal husbandry. For thousands of years humans have been intentionally manipulating the genetic properties of plants by preferring certain species over others. Perhaps the most common example is corn, a genetic mutation derived from teosinte. It began as an unwitting process of selecting certain types of teosinte that were more easily harvested and eaten due to their physical characteristics.  Eventually this process transformed into a deliberate decision to pick, pollinate and replant the most easily accessed and edible species. This eventually resulted in the perfectly packaged and easily processed corn we eat today; a process that has rendered corn defenseless on its own and utterly reliant upon human inputs and labor. Standage (2009) describes this process, explaining that maize as we know it today “is the result of human propagation of a series of random genetic mutations that transformed it from a simple grass into a bizarre, gigantic mutant that can no longer survive in the wild” (p. 5).

The same sort of process occurred with the domestication of certain animals. Beginning in 8000 B.C. humans began domesticating sheep and goats, eventually moving onto cattle and pigs (Standage 2009). “Most domesticated animals have smaller brains and less acute eyesight and hearing than their wild ancestors. This reduces their ability to survive in the wild but makes them more docile, which suits human farmers (Standage 2009:11). Through this process, humans became dependent upon these types of animals and vice versa. Nowadays, chickens and cows, many of which are manipulated to mature faster and produce more meat and milk, cannot survive on their own.

The modern genetic engineering procedure looks a lot different from the selective breeding processes of antiquity. Since the 1970s, humans have had the ability to move genes from one species of plant or animal and transplant them into different species. By doing this, humans are able to bestow the recipient organism with the characteristics associated with the newly introduced gene (Kinchy 2012). For example, in Peru, the Centro Internacional de La Papa (CIP) has successfully transferred a biotech gene into a new variety of potato. The new biotech gene transfers resistance to the potato tuber moth, Phthorimaea operculella. This new variety of potato can now be grown and stored without the threat of contamination (Nolte 2016).

The production of genetically modified organisms, also known as transgenics, have made important accomplishments. For many scientists and agriculturalists, the tuber moth resistant potato is the epitome of successful genetic engineering. Other transgenics have also been deemed feats of modern science, some with the capability of building resistance to insect pests, mitigating weed control (therefore diminishing the usage of herbicides) and preventing plant diseases. It has also been argued that GMOs can potentially increase the nutritional content of foods and increase drought resistance (Wu and Butz 2004). Critics on the other hand are very skeptical about the wide usage of genetically engineered agriculture.

Opponents to genetic-engineering argue that GMOs have the possibility of introducing new allergens into food. Additionally, critics are concerned about the medical consequences of using antibiotic resistance genes in the GE process, inadvertently increasing the toxin levels in plant materials (Union of Concerned Scientists 2002; Center for Food Safety 2000). Some articles indicate that GE foods could potentially have negative health implications (Dona & Arvanitoyannis 2009; Ewen & Pustazi 1999; Pelletier 2005, 2006). Other opponents of transgenics are concerned about preserving biodiversity and heirloom varieties of crops. GMOs have been known to infiltrate non-GE crop fields and slowly take over the previously organic and endemic species. Anthropologist Birgit Muller echoes these worries when he writes, “Although engineered by man to serve human purposes, from the moment onward when genetically engineered plants are released into the environment they escape human control and develop their own agency” (2006).

The risk of threatening the rich agricultural biodiversity is the central argument that GMO activists, scientists and scholars in Peru support. Tied closely to this endemic biodiversity are the traditional, often rural livelihoods of Peruvian farmers; protection of the former constitutes protection for the latter. In the case of Peru, the debate and conflict over the usage of GMOs has been ongoing since the early 1990s. More recently, the Peruvian government signed and executed a ten-year moratorium on transgenics. The neoliberal context in which this executive decree is occurring very interesting and worthy of scholarly research. More specifically, the recent moratorium poses questions about ideologies of agricultural governmentality and regulatory philosophies (Quark 2012; Kinchy 2010), the “politics of knowledge” (Goldman and Turner 2011), the intersectionality of politics and science (Kinchy, Kleinman & Autry 2008; Habermas 1970; Beck 1992), and the articulations of indigeneity and indigenous politics (Muehlmann 2009; Kuper 2003; Hale 2002). Moving forward this essay with attempt to set the stage of the Peruvian moratorium on transgenics, including its multitude of actors and audiences, and flesh out the complexities of its political and value-laden controversies.

Master’s Research: Part 1

In case any of you didn’t know, along with being a PCV I am also a Master’s student at Illinois State University. I am one of the last to receive what’s called a Master’s International Degree in Applied Community & Economic Development. My program is offered through the Stevenson Center at ISU. It is designed as a multidisciplinary Master’s experience where students specialize in one discipline but receive training in others. For example, I study sociology specifically, but took classes in the economics, political science and anthropology departments. The colleagues in my cohort, as you might expect, are economists, anthropologists and political scientists. Some of them, like me, are PCVs completing service while others complete their professional practice in the States.

What all this means is that on top of my work for my community and for the Peace Corps, I am also completing my master’s research on side. As of now, I am in the process of getting my research approved by my university as well as my country director for the Peace Corps. Once those approvals are processed, I will begin collecting qualitative data through in-depth interviews and observations. And to be honest, what I have prepared in the form of a research proposal will probably look a lot different than my final product. The messiness of my type of work– the necessity for iterative and inductive data collection– often transforms what the researcher thought they were going to get wrapped up in.

The reason for this post is to begin sharing what I am up to with respect to my personal research. I would like to begin sharing segments of my research proposal (it’s long, ~45 pages) in the hopes that whoever is reading might learn more about the country of Peru and how my brain operates within my speciality of environmental sociology. So with that being said, I present to you my baby (today we’ll just start with my abstract).

The Peruvian Moratorium on GMOs: Mapping Trajectories of Governance, Knowledge Production and  Indigeneity in a Neoliberal Context


On December 9, 2011, under the Presidency of Ollanta Humala (2011-2016), the Peruvian government approved Law No. 29811 establishing a ten-year moratorium on genetically modified organism (GMOs). In general, the moratorium eliminates the importation of genetically engineered seeds used for agriculture. The reasons for the GMO moratorium are convoluted, stemming from a myriad of related stakeholders and their respective interests. However, two foci create the backbone of the moratorium: the protection of rich Peruvian agricultural biodiversity and the perpetuation of farming techniques and lifestyles attached to the biodiverse landscape. Adding to these arguments, the implications of the Peruvian moratorium on GMOs can be further analyzed from various scientific, socio-cultural and political foundations. This paper will attempt to expound upon the varied perspectives of the moratorium and construct a multi-sited ethnographic narrative of the people, places and politics involved in the ten-year moratorium on genetically modified organisms.