Case Studies and Conflicting Interests
Edited by Tania Bubela and E. Richard Gold
Chapter 7: Sustaining the Indigenous Knowledge Commons
Ashok Kumbamu INTRODUCTION In Indian agriculture, two contradictory trends have been gaining momentum since the introduction of neo-liberal economic policies into the country in the early 1990s: firstly, the rapid commercialization of agriculture and the diffusion of the new agricultural technologies in general, and genetically modified (GM) seeds in particular; secondly, the community-oriented political-existential project involving the pursuit of a range of autonomies and community governance: autonomy over food production, seeds and other natural resources, local markets, media, and, through all of these, autonomy in the livelihoods of the poor, and the socio-ecological sustainability of their communities. In this context, this chapter examines various strategies of community-based organizations to build social economies and new governing models, and sustain indigenous knowledge systems. Also, this chapter analyzes whether place-based autonomous communities would preserve indigenous knowledge systems in the age of neo-liberal globalization. This chapter is organized in four parts. First I provide a background account which locates the introduction of new agricultural technologies in general, genetically modified cotton (Bt cotton) in particular, historically in relation to the persistence of class, caste and gender inequalities of post-colonial India and the mounting agrarian distress of neo-liberalized India. The second section attempts to conceptualize indigenous knowledge systems of farmers in India in the context of the ‘Gene Revolution’, and its implications for farming communities. In the third section, I examine and analyze various strategies of community-based organizations (such as community seed banks, biodiversity festivals, revival of the forgotten local staple food, and socio-cultural programs around...
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