With support from the CLA ENGAGE program, Andrew Flachs, assistant professor of anthropology, invited four speakers to campus, Peggy Barlett, Mark Nichter, Cynthia Fowler, and Marcus Taylor, to participate in an open forum on issues around political ecology, agrarian change, and rural wellbeing. Dr. Gerald Shively, Associate Dean and Director of International Programs in the college of agriculture introduced the event. The speakers also participated in a workshop responding to Flachs’ newly published book, Cultivating Knowledge: Biotechnology, Sustainability, and the Human Cost of Cotton Capitalism in India (University of Arizona Press, 2019) and Dr. Nichter delivered a keynote talk on his work as a medical anthropologist.
In Cultivating Knowledge Flachs shows how rural farmers come to plant genetically modified or certified organic cotton during a moment of agrarian crisis, arguing that the greatest shifts in these technologies are in how farmers learn and practice farmwork on a daily basis. By comparing the experiences of farmers engaged with these mutually exclusive visions for the future of agriculture, this book investigates the human responses to global agrarian change: the slow, persistent dangers of pesticides, inequalities in rural life, the aspirations of people who grow fibers sent around the world, the place of ecological knowledge in contemporary agriculture, and even the complex threat of suicide.