Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

C4 Rice and Hoping the Sun Can End Hunger: Tales of Plants, Evolution, Transgenics and Crisis
by Kortright, Christopher Michael, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2012, 237; 3540557
Abstract (Summary)

Situated at the creative intersection of biological and experimental sciences, this ethnographic dissertation examines the science, politics, economics, and creative transformations of a transgenic rice crop. Based on ethnographic research at the International Rice Research Institute—one of the founding Green Revolution institutions—this research focuses on the C4 Rice Project, in which researchers are attempting to change the photosynthetic pathways of the rice plant to increase its yields. The 2008 food crisis and the crisis of global capital serve as the backdrop to this rice tale overwritten with the languages of scarcity, consumption, food security and overpopulation. In the first half, the dissertation historicizes the C4 Rice Project within the logics and political economy of the Green Revolution in which overpopulation and high-yielding crops became the theoretical foundation for the US involvement in agricultural technologies in the “developing world.” In the second half, the dissertation puts the political economy of scientific and development apparatuses in dialogue with a posthumanist investigation of evolutionary theory, and the creative transformations produced through experimental labor. To do so, the dissertation focuses on specific plant-human relations within the C4 Rice Project to reveal that the relationship between researchers and plants are a form of creative labor. This section illustrates new understandings of evolution and the relationships between plants and humans and challenges notions of passivity, in which plants are acted upon by humans and transformed into genetic oddities. Through careful ethnographic investigation of the C4 Rice Project, this research illustrates the particularity of this transgenic project that is not about “fixing the plant” but evolutionarily working with the plant. This dissertation argues that the debate over transgenics and humanitarian rice needs to move away from concepts and ideas of what is “natural” and towards discussions about power, control, economic access and distribution. These discussions will lead to different expectations in the area of intellectual property and the rights to seeds, land and food.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dumit, Joseph
Commitee: Klima, Alan, Sunder Rajan, Kaushik, de la Cadena, Marisol
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 74/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Agronomy, Cultural anthropology, Asian Studies, Science history
Keywords: Anthropology of science, C4 rice, Food crisis, International development, Political economy, Posthumanism, Transgenics
Publication Number: 3540557
ISBN: 978-1-267-65764-0
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