research talk Anjana Ramkumar

Abstract: Local Knowledge has been receiving increasing attention over past decades for its potential to inform development. While literature on Local Knowledge has largely dealt with its application in pre-modern or modernising contexts, its (re)emergence within the hegemonic landscape of post-Green Revolution agriculture in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu presents a novel avenue of investigation. Having been rendered obsolete with the Green Revolution, traditional varieties (TVs) of rice are now being cultivated again in Tamil Nadu as informed by Local Knowledge. In this talk, I present a narrative that traces the return of TVs and argue for a reframing of Local Knowledge that remains open to the possibility of its multiple, dynamic and unprecedented interactions with elements of modernity and mainstream development.

Using ethnographic data, the rise of TVs is explored from three points of entry. First, farmers’ motivations in cultivating TVs are examined to situate the alternative practice within the larger socio-political landscape of agriculture in Tamil Nadu. Second, interactions between key stakeholders are mapped to illustrate how TV cultivation is made relevant and sustainable through strategic engagement with the market, via state-provided channels. Third, the renaissance of TVs as grains of cultural significance is explored to understand how the cultivation and consumption of TVs has acquired new meaning in contemporary Tamil Nadu. I conclude with a discussion on potential avenues for future research as situated within conversations on agrarian change, alternative development and critical food studies.

The link to the virtual conference room will be sent directly to the participants. You can register as listener until 15. November 2020

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rice field in Tamil Nadu


Anjana Ramkumar

Anjana Ramkumar

Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University

Anjana Ramkumar is a PhD student in the department of Development Sociology at Cornell University. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Geography (2019) and her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies (2016) from the National University of Singapore. Her research is situated in the intersection of development and agriculture and engages with questions of alternative development, food sovereignty and food cultures.

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