The core of the Agrarian Studies Program’s activities is a weekly colloquium organized around an annual theme. Invited specialists send papers in advance that are the focus of an organized discussion by the faculty and graduate students associated with the colloquium.
This topic embraces, inter alia, the study of mutual perceptions between countryside and city, and patterns of cultural and material exchange, extraction, migration, credit, legal systems, and political order that link them.
It also includes an understanding of how different societies conceive of the spatial order they exhibit. What terms are meaningful and how are they related?: e.g., frontier, wilderness, arable, countryside, city, town, agriculture, commerce, “hills,” lowlands, maritime districts, inland. How have these meanings changed historically and what symbolic and material weight do they bear?
Aarti Sethi (UC Berkeley) is a socio-cultural anthropologist with primary interests in agrarian anthropology, political-economy and the study of South Asia.My research interests broadly focus on the transformation of rural life-worlds and agrarian capitalism. Her current manuscript, Cotton Fever in Central India, examines cash-crop economies to understand how monetary debt undertaken for transgenic cotton-cultivation transforms intimate, social and productive relations in rural society. With the introduction of genetically modified cotton-seeds, over a quarter of a million cotton-farmers have committed suicide in central India, unable to repay debts undertaken for capital-intensive agriculture. In order to grow GM cotton-seed, small-holder peasant producers are locked in downward debt spirals to banks, money-lenders and kin. The devastating psycho-social effect of debt and suicide emerges from a structural impossibility inherent in peasant production, which could be called ‘cash-cropping without cash’. The book is concerned with how economic imperatives come to inhabit social and personal temporalities.