THE POLITICAL ONTOLOGY OF SEEDS: SEED SOVEREIGNTY STRUGGLES IN AN INDIGENOUS RESGUARDO IN COLOMBIA Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
Creator
  • Gutierrez Escobar, Laura
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
Abstract
  • This dissertation examines seed conflicts in Colombia due to the expansion of the Corporate Seed Regime, or the corporate-led governance and political economy of seeds premised upon the commodification of seeds via genetic engineering and intellectual property rights on plant material, in the context of the Free Trade Agreement with the US. To analyze seed conflicts in Colombia, I propose a multi-pronged approach that weaves together the political economy, the political ecology, and the political ontology of seed-human relationships. As other communities and social movements in Colombia –and across Latin America–, seed savers from the Network of Free Seeds are increasingly associating neo-extractivist projects, particularly the expansion of GM corporate agriculture, to death and destruction, while defining their movement as the defense of life. Drawing from this conceptualization of ‘life’ vs ‘dead seed systems,’ I argue that seed conflicts are ontological conflicts, or conflicts over what seeds are, and, by extent, over the defense of the diversity of seed-human worlds enacted through agriculture and food practices. To investigate the ontological dimension of seed conflicts, I analyze conceptualizations of seeds as a commons and sentient, related beings among Emberá-Chamí indigenous communities in the District of Riosucio, in the Colombian coffee-growing zone. I examine why and how the conservation of ‘traditional’ seeds and anti-GM activism in Riosucio’s indigenous communities underpin their struggles for territory, identity, food sovereignty, and self-governance. Specifically, I look at three seed sovereignty initiatives in Riosucio: seed saving networks, the Community Seed House, and Transgenic-Free Territories. I contend that these initiatives evidence relational seed ontologies based on 1) multispecies figured worlds where identity-making processes become embodied in –and through– non-human beings, such as seeds, who shape indigeneity in Riosucio; and 2) place-based ways of inhabiting the territory, or modelos propios, particularly a Community Seed Economy that fosters multispecies practices of care, commons, and alternative markets for seeds.
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  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • Escobar, Arturo
  • Nonini, Donald
  • Colloredo-Mansfeld, Rudi
  • Holland, Dorothy
  • Valdivia, Gabriela
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016
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