Emerging Models of Small-Scale Farming in the Caribbean: Re-making the Agrarian Metabolism?

Authors: Jeff Popke*, East Carolina University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Development, Latin America
Keywords: Caribbean, agriculture, metabolism, biopolitics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Balcony M, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Caribbean agriculture is beset by a number of well-known challenges, including small farm size, an aging farm population, lack of financial and social capital, and the twin burdens of volatile markets and climate change. In response, many policy-makers in the region have promoted the modernization of the agriculture sector, including greater use of agricultural technology, increased capital investment, and a more individualistic and entrepreneurial mindset aimed at attracting younger farmers. Alongside these approaches, however, some local farmers groups have fostered an alternative model of agrarian relations, focused around the collective agency of farmers and more ecologically-sensitive methods of cultivation. In this paper, I read these competing agricultural models as alternative visions for the biopolitical management of the region's 'agrarian metabolism'. Drawing on interviews with farmers in Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean, I examine how rural producers are negotiating these competing narratives in making decisions about the crops that they plant and the methods of production that they employ. At stake in these decisions, I argue, is the potential reconfiguration of the Caribbean agrarian metabolism to foster new kinds of biopolitical practices and socio-ecological relations.

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