Speculative Knowledge-Based Economies: The Case of Agrodiesel Production in Bahia, Brazil.

Authors: Maya Manzi*, Mecila
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Energy, Latin America
Keywords: agrodiesel, knowledge-based economy, bioeconomy, food-energy systems, Brazil
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the beginning of the 21st century, agrofuel production has profoundly restructured energy and food systems worldwide. Brazil has been one of the leading countries for the development of this so-called “sustainable energy”. The state-sponsored “National Programme for the Production and Use of Biodiesel” (PNPB), launched in 2004, has been promoted through a discourse of “social inclusion” that has targeted traditional family-farmers of the Northeast pertaining to agrarian social movements and organizations like the MST (Landless Workers’ Movement). This inclusion was made possible through a process of de/re-valuation of the Northeastern peasants and of the nature(s) from which they have historically depended (Manzi 2013). This paper expands on my doctoral research on social movements’ engagement in agrodiesel production in Bahia, by adding insights from my current work on the role of knowledge in nature-society conviviality in unequal societies of Latin America. Within this perspective, we explore the role of scientific knowledge and technologies in the production of agrodiesel in Bahia, Brazil, and its impacts on nature-society relations and on the production of difference and inequality. We argue that processes of valuation under agrodiesel development have been embedded in a highly speculative “knowledge-based economy” (Jessop 2005). The results show that the “imaginative natures” of these bioeconomies are constituted through a complex system of governance that allow for contention to irrupt from within. We also discuss the ethico-political implications of the “speculative reinvention of Life” (Cooper 2007) that accompanies agrodiesel development in Brazil and beyond.

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