Undisciplined Environments and Food as Commons

2015-10-02 09.56.08

Two weeks ago I attended the Undisciplined Environments Conference, aka the International Conference of the European Network of Political Ecology, in Stockholm.

Activists from all over the world and scholars from a wide range of disciplines met over four days to discuss the political intersections between environmental and societal issues. I went to present on the Spanish socio-environmental conflicts represented in the Environmental Justice Atlas, with an emphasis on the conflict we are now researching in detail: GM crops.

Some of the presentations were great. Kim Tallbear gave a talk during a plenary on post-colonisation studies, indigenous feminism and the role of technoscience in the colonisation of indigenous peoples and others. She talked about multi-species ethnographies and presented some of the traits of the indigenous ontologies, which usually exceed the dominating binomial (and hierarchical) categorisation of reality (e.g male-female, culture-nature…), and pointed out to the ability of non-human beings and things to co-construct reality. This strongly resonated with the process of following maize through the food web and the actants of The Agri/Cultures Project.

Also, Ugo Mattei gave an interesting talk about his latest book, “The ecology of law”. In this book, Ugo Mattei and Fritjof Capra, they explore the intimate links and alignments between the mechanistic science and the making of modern law. They argue that the perception of the world as a “machine-world” (with its controllable, replaceable and disconnected parts) has profoundly shaped modern law and its main pillars (individual, private property, State sovereignty) and this is also deeply responsible for the global ecological crisis we face. They state that a paradigmatic shift regarding law is urgently needed and put forward the idea of The Commons as a key aspect of this shift (the commons as a legal institution). Its potential relies on transcending traditional public-private property dichotomies and putting more emphasis on the power of communities.

In fact, the commons was a concept very present throughout the conference. I attended a presentation about food as commons that inspired me to want to explore this thread in relation to our project (e.g food as commons or, perhaps, more specifically, seeds as commons). In my view, the commons are not just resources. The commons are intimately involved with all living beings as they are also part of the web of life. They shape and are shaped by reality (in fact, our lives depend on their health) and they are at the heart of many heated conflicts worldwide.

This is just the beginning of a thread that I hope to keep building on but…  do you know of any interesting work done on ‘seeds as commons´ or ‘food as commons’ with an ecologically-inspired perspective?

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