Campus Box 1114
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
My research is on environmental anthropology, political ecology, food studies, and science & technology studies. I am particularly interested in the social and political aspects of agricultural systems; agricultural sustainability; intensification and industrialization; indigenous knowledge; responses to population increase; agricultural biotechnology; and alternative food/farming systems. I have worked on past and contemporary nonindustrialized farmers in Africa, India, the Philippines, and North America.
One focus of my present research is on the spread of genetically modified crops in developing countries. After working in a laboratory specializing in transformation of tropical crops, and completing a multi-year, multi-village field study of Andhra Pradesh farmers as GM cotton was being adopted, I am starting a project on indigenous knowledge and technology change among rice and cotton farmers in India and the Philippines (including impacts of “Golden Rice”).
A second research focus is on the new small farm movement in North America, including the economic and ecological aspects of sustainability and historical perspectives on small farmers in Appalachia.
A third focus of current work is on the politics of agricultural research and interventions.
Earlier research projects examined social and agricultural change among Kofyar and Tiv populations in Nigeria. With the Kofyar I analyzed the social organization of labor and landscape in an intensive, sustainable system. Research on the Tiv showed different responses to land scarcity, including conflict and the manipulation of local political processes to avoid intensification. I have also worked on Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazis), especially political and agricultural responses to population increase.
From 2011-2013 I was president of the Anthropology and Environment Society.
A detailed publications list with links is available here.
Publications on indigenous knowledge:
2013 Rhythms of the Herd: Long Term Dynamics in Seed Choice by Indian Farmers. Technology in Society 36:26-38. (with A. Flachs and C. Diepenbrock) [pdf]
2007 The Birth and Death of Traditional Knowledge: Paradoxical Effects of Biotechnology in India. In Biodiversity and the Law: Intellectual Property, Biotechnology and Traditional Knowledge, edited by Charles McManis, pp. 207-238. Earthscan. [pdf] For discussion of this work, see: The Napster pirates of transgenic biotech (Salon.com).
On food and biotechnology:
2013 The Trials of Genetically Modified Food: Bt Eggplant and Ayurvedic Medicine in India. Food Culture & Society 16:21-42 (with C. Kudlu). [pdf]
On biotechnology in India:
2011 Field vs. Farm in Warangal: Bt Cotton, Higher Yields, and Larger Questions. World Development 39(3):387-398. [pdf]
2007 Agricultural Deskilling and the Spread of Genetically Modified Cotton in Warangal. Current Anthropology 48:67-103. [pdf] For discussion of this work, see: Ganesh and Brahma bow to a new god (Salon.com).
On biotechnology in general:
2014 Biosecurity in the Age of Genetic Engineering. In Bioinsecurity and Human Vulnerability, edited by Nancy Chen and Lesley Sharp. SAR Press (forthcoming).
2010 Anthropology of Genetically Modified Crops. Annual Review of Anthropology 39:381-400. [pdf]
2005 A Science of the Gray: Malthus, Marx, and the Ethics of Studying Crop Biotechnology. In Embedding Ethics: Shifting Boundaries of the Anthropological Profession, ed. L. Meskell and P. Pels, pp. 197-217. Berg, Oxford. [pdf]
2002 Both Sides Now: Fallacies in the Genetic-Modification Wars, Implications for Developing Countries, and Anthropological Perspectives. Current Anthropology, 43(4):611-630 [CA + enhanced online article for subscribers or local pdf file with backgrounder].
On science & technology studies of agriculture:
2012 Constructing Facts: Bt Cotton Narratives in India. Economic & Political Weekly 47(38):62-70. [pdf]
2011 Contradictions in the Last Mile: Suicide, Culture, and E-Agriculture in Rural India. Science, Technology and Human Values 36:759-790. [pdf]