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Pre-Industrial Ecological Modernization in Agro-Food and Medicine: Directing the Commodification of Heritage Culture in Cambodia

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Abstract

The environmental movement, which picked up steam from the 1960s in many rich countries, is manifested in modern-day green politics, pollution regulation, nature protection, the re-emergence of renewable energy, and organic agriculture. Discursively, this was, and still is, a post-industrial movement that arose out of atavistic notions of ‘returning’ to the land and reversing toxic pollution and human alienation from nature. Since the mid-1990s, this discourse has penetrated into theory and practice for development in pre-industrial countries, presenting new and often contradictory lessons for modernization. In particular, the concept of ‘ecological modernization’, which was used starting in the early 1980s to describe technology-based efforts to clean up the pollution and reconcile industrial development with higher environmental expectations, is turned on its head when applied to developing countries, as the focus shifts from intervention to prevention. In developing countries, however, prevention does not strictly correspond with a transfer of Western protocols for, among others, environmental regulation, organic agricultural production and sustainable wild harvesting. Instead, prevention is more about proactive engagement with contemporary agricultural discourses and adaptation of technical advancements that provides a basis for novel and more culturally-embedded food and medicine systems. This dissertation looks at the ‘capability’ (following Amartya Sen) of Cambodian society to reflexively interact with the pressures and opportunities presented by the commodification of food and medicine in light of ongoing discursive debates between industrial and alternative agriculture. It looks at assets available to Cambodians, including the ‘agro-social skill’ arising from rural experience that maintains a differentiated appreciation of agricultural products, as well as the role of historical narratives in creating a common basis of understanding agricultural modernization. Specifically, the dissertation explores the experience of three agricultural product types that are undergoing a contested commodification, namely organic/natural rice, sugar palm products, and traditional medicine. This work evaluates how these traditional product forms are socially reconstructed as heritage or ecological products throughout their commodification by analyzing the ways in which they are marketed, integrated into cultural politics and development, and perceived by rural and urban consumers. The primarily qualitative analysis of trends in production and consumption is also informed by economic analyses of farm productivity and marketing dynamics using a unique method of natural experimentation developed for this work. In conclusion, this dissertation outlines the evolving successes and dilemmas of various initiatives for promoting ecological and heritage products and uncovers mechanisms by which societal ‘capability’ for proactively encountering agricultural modernization and commodification is either eroded or buttressed. The author suggests that the precondition for successful initiatives in the long-term is the preservation and reproduction of agro-social skill, which provides the reflexivity and ideological motivation to consciously direct commodification of heritage culture and, in broader terms, provide agency in managing the encroachment of capitalist relations.
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... Tonics are noted by Ovesen and Trankell (2010) to be a popular product of one TKM practitioner, but they do not document a persistent prevalence of tonics within the TKM system, nor generally throughout Cambodia (although T. Lim (in prep) has found that TKM practitioners cite certain bear products as being used in tonic form; this will be discussed in the context of the results presented in Chapter 4). Indeed, Feuer (2013) cites the 'overprocessing' of medicine into a tonic as being suspicious to rural TKM consumers, as they would not then be able to tell whether the key herbal product was mixed with anything else (such as Western medicine). According to Feuer (2013), there is an identified problem with TKM 'practitioners' mixing "strong pharmaceuticals", with, it can be assumed, detrimental health effects to the patient. ...
... Indeed, Feuer (2013) cites the 'overprocessing' of medicine into a tonic as being suspicious to rural TKM consumers, as they would not then be able to tell whether the key herbal product was mixed with anything else (such as Western medicine). According to Feuer (2013), there is an identified problem with TKM 'practitioners' mixing "strong pharmaceuticals", with, it can be assumed, detrimental health effects to the patient. Nonetheless, although this worry may be present, Feuer (2013) does support Ovesen and Trankell (2010) in stating that some TKM practitioners will craft tonics, yet to assuage concerns over the content of the tonics the practitioners will have the raw products available, and will make sure that they attain some form of official certification (such as government accreditation) to show that they are generally reputable. ...
... According to Feuer (2013), there is an identified problem with TKM 'practitioners' mixing "strong pharmaceuticals", with, it can be assumed, detrimental health effects to the patient. Nonetheless, although this worry may be present, Feuer (2013) does support Ovesen and Trankell (2010) in stating that some TKM practitioners will craft tonics, yet to assuage concerns over the content of the tonics the practitioners will have the raw products available, and will make sure that they attain some form of official certification (such as government accreditation) to show that they are generally reputable. However, the general lack of prevalence of tonics in Cambodia points again to the disparities between TKM and medical systems such as TCM and TVM. ...
... Although ultimately succumbing to a fate similar to that of the ancient city of Babylon, for many modern Cambodians the spirituality, disciplined social organisation and honour that are associated with the agronomic feats of their predecessor Khmer civilisation provide a beacon of hope for future development. 17 The apparent contradiction of glorifying a failed civilization in the past is reconciled, however unjustifiably, by the populist view of many Cambodians that the flaws of the past can be remedied with current technology. In the meantime, the ancient Khmers are glorified for their advanced cultivation, physically embodied in the extensive archaeological remains of irrigation canals and waterways interwoven with the city of Angkor, and the bounty of their orchards, embodied in the two towering Palmyra sugar palms that nobly flank the temple of Angkor Wat. ...
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Many facets of globalisation are contested on ethical or humanitarian grounds but the defence of local food and agriculture often borders on the spiritual. In particular, the decline or homogenisation of local food and agriculture is often acutely felt because it embodies a spiritual violation of cultural identity and sacredness of the land. The essence of this crisis has been newly characterised in Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Laudato si’, which captures the spiritual relevance of agriculture by characterising the human response to contemporary ecological decline and culinary shifts. In trying to understand how we arrived at our present state, sociologists of faith, such as the late Jacques Ellul have long described how technology comes to dominate over nature in processes such as agricultural development. In his argument, by incrementally drawing humans away from nature and into technological spheres (by engineering tractors, producing agri-chemicals, and genetically modifying plants), alienation from nature is amplified and the scope of ecological crisis broadens. This phenomenon is not new; indeed, most religious texts and creation myths caution against this alienation through parables and commandments. In light of the new public attention being drawn to the spiritual dimension of the ecological crisis, this chapter explores content from Judeo-Christian texts and Cambodian myths that specifically speaks to this phenomenon. The valorisation of the land found, for example, in the book of Exodus referencing Israel as the ‘land flowing with milk and honey’, is typical of religious and pseudo-religious narrative that are integrated with political narratives such as nationalism and cultural patrimony. In this chapter, I address how national metanarratives built on these spiritual-historic characterisations play a role in shaping agriculture and food policy and evaluate the spiritual dimension of a few Cambodian initiatives that attempt to moderate the alienation brought about by industrialisation and globalisation.
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Pre-prepared food venues (or soup-pot restaurants) in Cambodia and other Asian countries make their decisions about what to cook in a complex food-society nexus, factoring in their culinary skill, seasonality of ingredients, and diners' expectations for variety. As such, soup-pot restaurants exist as tenuous brokers between rural food customs and the prevailing expectations of city dwellers. In urban areas, they are a transparent window into seasonality and market cycles, as well as an opportunity to encounter culinary diversity and participate in the consolidation of an everyday 'national cuisine'. Soup-pot restaurants, in contrast to other restaurant formats, craft an experience that balances the agricultural and social dynamics of rural eating customs with city comforts. Typically, soup-pot restaurants can accomplish this while also serving as a space of dietary learning, providing meals that are culturally understood to be balanced and nutritious, and garnering support for local cuisine from across the socio-economic spectrum. As a site of research, these restaurants can be seen as potential innovators for managing the consequences of industrialization on food and agriculture, facilitating democratic daily practices of food sovereignty.
Article
The concept of food sovereignty presents us with an important theoretical and practical challenge. The political economy of agriculture can only take up this gauntlet through improving its understanding of the processes of agricultural growth. It is very difficult to address the issue of food sovereignty without such an understanding. Developing such an understanding involves (re)combining the political economy of agriculture with the Chayanovian approach. This paper gives several explanations (all individually valid but stronger in combination) as to why peasant agriculture results in sturdy and sustainable growth and also identifies the factors that undermine this capacity. The paper also argues that peasant agriculture is far from being a remnant of the past. While different peasantries around the world are shaped and reproduced by today's capital (and more specifically by current food empires), they equally help to shape and contribute to the further unfolding of the forms of capital related to food and agriculture. It is important to understand this two-way interaction between capital and peasant agriculture as this helps to ground the concept of food sovereignty. The article argues that the capacity to produce enough food (at different levels, distinguishing different needs, and so on) needs to be an integral part of the food sovereignty discourse. It concludes by suggesting that peasant agriculture has the best potential for meeting food sovereignty largely because it has the capacity to produce (more than) sufficient good food for the growing world population and that it can do so in a way that is sustainable.
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Literaturverz. S. 40 - 41. - Zsfassung in engl. Sprache
Article
This paper provides detailed descriptive accounts of two important methodological positions for analysing the political economy of global production and trade, Global Commodity Chain (GCC) analysis and the Filiere tradition. As well as describing the similarities and differences between the positions, the paper raises a series of criticisms of them. It concludes that GCC analysis provides a more promising point of departure than the Filiere tradition, although some work related to the latter could help fill certain of the lacunae within GCC analysis.
Chapter
As an African American scholar in the academy, I have been negotiating traffic at a busy intersection for the last twenty-five years. For me, race, gender, class, disability, sexuality, and a range of categories of social difference have not been faddish, fast-moving sports cars on an academic highway. Rather, they have been the permanent routes, however fluid and contested, that I have chosen to pursue. As if traveling the routes of social difference were not enough, I have followed an itinerary that has been further complicated by a joint appointment in English and Women's Studies, as well as courtesy appointments in the Departments of African American and African Studies, Comparative Studies, The Center for Law, Policy and Social Science, and the Center for Folklore Studies. This type of interdisciplinarity and intersectionality has demanded that I have a clear sense of methodologies and theoretical frameworks for my research. Confronting promotion and tenure committees with anything less than knowing what I am doing and how I am doing it would have left me as roadkill on academe's outer belt- never arriving close enough to its city of power to make any difference. So, I have been strategic about my analytical tools and the arguments that I have formulated that allow me to employ those tools. In Granny Midwives and Black Women Writers: Double-Dutched Readings, I demonstrate what it means to pursue research at the nexus of race, gender, culture, and class, and create an accommodating methodology. I began my research with the question: Why do the novels of so many contemporary African American women writers contain portraits of black lay midwives and women healers who are simultaneously constructed as obstetricians, chemists, rootworkers, and psychotherapists? In pursuing this question, I realized that I would have to study the historical lives of the many Southern, rural black women who during their heyday, the 1920s and '30s, numbered more than forty-three thousand and who, although described in some government publications as "uncompetent nigra women," in their own communities, "stood as tall as God" (Granny Midwives 6, 24, 88). I had decided to tell the historical grannies' stories in tandem with the fictional representations of their stories. However, my first roadblock was that at the time that I was researching my book, no one had written about the lives of the black lay midwives. There was one book on one particular granny midwife,1 but there were no collected histories of their lives. I could not believe that these women, who had delivered thousands of black and white babies, who birthed and healed a nation, had not commanded scholarly attention. How was I to do what I wanted to do with the literature when the history was not there? Scholars of color in the academy often must first fill vacuums before they can do their work. Although I had not originally planned to do all the archival and ethnographic work, I had to do it. If there was "no there there," as Gertrude Stein would say, then I had to do the research that would validate the lives of the black lay midwives as a first step to understanding how their lives resonated with the literary characterizations of a long list of conjure women: Toni Morrison's Pilate (Song of Solomon) and Marie-Therese (Tar Baby); Gloria Naylor's Sapphira Wade and Mama Day (Mama Day); Toni Cade Bambara's Minnie Ramson (The Salt Eaters), Tina McElroy Ansa's Baby of the Family, selected Alice Walker's short stories, and many other authors and texts. I had to bring together the medical history, the cultural history, and the literary tradition in a way that my colleagues in the discipline of English would find credible and a way that I felt was culturally responsive to the material. My task was to talk about all of these sistah conjurers without sounding like a conjurewoman myself. For although I knew that the original meanings of conjure woman were closely associated with double-headed and double wisdom,2 and thus an empowering idiom for diasporic sisterly powers, I could not count on my colleagues to read conjure apart from its European inflected meanings of black witchcraft. Scholars of color in the academy are always suspect. I wanted a methodology that would fit my subject matter. It had to be a methodology that was grounded in multiplicities, able to accommodate my project's interdisciplinarity. It also had to be a methodology that was at ease with a culturally grounded text. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of African American scholars who were using indigenous metaphors for writing African American experiences: Elsa Barkley Brown's "quilting" of history; Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s "speakerley texts"; Mae Henderson's "speaking in tongues" trope, bell hooks and Cornel West's "breaking bread" metaphor. I wanted my methodology to travel to what Karla Holloway calls a "cultural mooring place" (Holloway 522). One day, while sitting at the kitchen table with a laptop, a PC, and a printer, I noticed my daughters in the driveway jumping double-dutch. As I watched the turning of multiple ropes, listened to their chanting of folk rhymes, and saw them negotiate space between the two ropes in front of a company of neighbors waiting their turn, I knew that I was witnessing the performance of my methodology. Here was an art form that was closely associated with the experiences of young black girls. In Granny Midwives, I transform jumping double-dutch into a practice of reading dual cultural performances, the performances of the historical grannies and the performances of the literary texts. Just as jumping double-dutch requires the jumpers to listen to the chanting and sound of the ropes, then multiply locate themselves between ropes, I ask my readers to hear the orality of the two sets of texts and multiply locate themselves between my narrative ropes (Granny Midwives 3). Jumping double-dutch is much harder than merely skipping rope. It requires a company, a community of jumpers. It is difficult to learn, for one must perform a set of verbally sung instructions while the two ropes are turning. Jumping in requires a number of false starts. Jumpers sway their bodies back and forth as they try to match the rhythm of the ropes. Building on double-dutch as a trope, I discuss the ropes of my analysis as an intertextual, interplay performed against a polyphonic range of black women's voices, providing the interdisciplinary freedom my work requires. Not having found a methodology that complemented my role as an "indigenous ethnographer," I risked creating one. One of the benefits of having done so is watching how others who practice women of color feminisms have made use of the model. Imagine my surprise when someone sent me a tape of a womanist theologian who spoke at a large convention and introduced her work as "double-dutched ministry," citing the work that I had done. In addition to the methodological work the historical recovery work has attracted an audience. Medical groups such as LaMaze International and Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) have not asked me to speak at their national and/or regional conventions. Although I never planned to build bridges between medicine and literature, there was work that needed to be done, a gap that needed to be filled. Just as rewarding as academic and professional responses have been the responses from African American communities. Interdisciplinary work and methodologies that resonate with frameworks familiar to one's home community engage populations outside the academy. Perhaps it was the Varnette Honeywood picture of young people jumping double-dutch on the cover of Granny Midwives that caught the attention of the editors of the hip-hop magazine Vibe. In any event, in the special Notorious B.I.G. death keepsake issue there's a review of Granny Midwives as a text that does cultural work. The practice within my department is to place reviews on a bulletin board. Usually the reviews are from canonical, professionally approved journals. I had the pleasure of tacking on the wall the Vibe review, a review that placed Granny Midwives next to books with titles that usually do not grace the hollowed walls of academe: Tough Love: Cultural Criticism and Familial Observations on the Life and Death of Tupac Shakur and Fuck You Too, the Extras+More Scrapbook. Scholars of color in the academy often go where no one has gone before.
Chapter
Components of rice known and referred to as grain quality largely determine market price and consumer acceptance. The most important factors plant breeders consider in developing new rice varieties are grain quality and yield. If consumers do not like the flavor, texture, taste, aroma, appearance, cookability, or processability of a newly developed rice, any other outstanding attribute of the variety may be worthless (IRRI 1985).