[TimorLesteStudies] New Article: Ethnography, Agency, and Materiality: Anthropological Perspectives on Rice Development in East Timor

Bu Wilson bu.wilson at anu.edu.au
Tue Oct 11 20:45:43 EST 2011

                  Shepherd, C. and McWilliam , A. 2011. Ethnography, Agency, and Materiality: Anthropological Perspectives on Rice Development in East Timor. East Asian Science, Technology and Society:An International Journal, 5 (2), 189-215
Rice in contemporary East Timor is multivalent, with a rich historical legacy. In
                     the current postcolonial context, rice agriculture and the value of rice as both
                     a consumption good and a development objective remain a priority.
                     Government-sponsored rice production is framed variously as “food
                     security” for the poor and as a key objective of
                     “agricultural modernization” for a new class of dynamic
                     farmers in a progressive market-oriented food production sector. In this article
                     we present a comparative study of two rice development projects in East Timor
                     that promote enhanced yields and production of irrigated rice through improved
                     seed germplasm and other technologies of development. The Tapo-Memo scheme and
                     the initiative known as “Seeds of Life” illustrate
                     contrasting engagements with technoscientific development. We adopt three
                     intersecting anthropological perspectives: sociocultural
                        anthropology, the anthropology of development, and
                     applied development anthropology. From the former we know
                     rice as a set of cultural practices. The anthropology of development critiques
                     and analyzes rice development in the light of existing farmer practices and
                     technosocial relations. And applied anthropology seeks to act instrumentally to
                     improve rice development interventions. The novelty of the article is to mix
                     these perspectives while recognizing the methodological, interpretative, and
                     subdisciplinary differences that separate them. We incorporate the analytical
                     tool of the “boundary object” to examine how rice agency is
                     experientially constituted and politically negotiated along the contours and at
                     the boundaries of international development operations, national policy,
                     extension agents, and the everyday lives, livelihoods, and aspirations of


Dr Bu V.E. Wilson
T: Australia +61  0  407 087 086
T: Timor-Leste + 670 744 0011
E: buvewilson at gmail.com
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