Universiteit Leiden

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CA-OS Research Seminar | Dissident Seeds: Citizen Science and Peasant Activism in Southern Europe

Monday 3 December 2018
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden

Dissident seeds: Citizen science and peasant activism in Southern Europe

The relationship between seed innovation and the future of agro-food relations, environmental sustainability, and public health constitutes a particularly contentious object of policy debate and scientific inquiry. This lecture illuminates the role of farmer citizen science in the construction of resilient alternatives to the multiple crises of the agro-industrial model, characterized by the consolidation of corporate control over plant breeding goals and methods, intellectual property rights, and trade rules. It specifically investigates the transformative potential of farmer-led initiatives of agro-biodiversity reproduction that embrace crop diversification as a fundamentally spatial and temporal process—an expression of difference that is produced through co-evolutionary adaptation and exchange, open-ended experimentation, and heterogeneous mixtures of genetic variance. Through case studies of collaborative population breeding in Italy and Spain, the lecture examines attempts to disrupt dominant standards of productivity, quality, and value by emphasizing the complexity of socio-natural variability as a source of autonomy, sustenance, and regenerative production. Correspondingly, drawing from ethnographic research on breeding trials, farmer-to-farmer training and exchange sessions, seed commons and networks, the lecture addresses the relationship between innovative approaches to sustainability; the collective mobilization of cultural and political identities; and the pursuit of autonomy as a relational praxis, rooted in an ethics of interdependence, and realized in coordination with others.

About Elisa Da Vià

Elisa Da Vià is a University Docent in the Leiden University International Studies Program. She holds a BA in International and Diplomatic Sciences from the University of Trieste (Italy), and a MS and PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University (USA). Her research focuses on agro-ecology and agrarian transitions, seed and food activism, and solidarity economies. She is currently conducting multi-sited ethnographic research on networks of seed saving and seed exchange, farmer-led agro-ecological experimentation, and collective food provisioning in Europe.

This talk will be followed by drinks in the bamboolounge 

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