Ifuago 'Heirloom Rice': Commoditization and Haute Cuisine

Authors: Hanover Vale*, Dartmouth College
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Asia, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: rice, foodways, restaurant, 'heirloom' varietals, Philippines, anti-commodity
Session Type: Guided Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 3.5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Cordillera Rice Terraces located in Ifuago, Philippines are recognized as some of the most complex, biodiverse, and well managed rice terraces in the world. Stewarded by Ifuago individuals to harbor unique varietals of rice for food, cultural, and spiritual uses these rice varietals have become more desirable by Philippine and International chefs and consumers alike. Although referred to in the media and in marketing projects as "heirloom" varietals - in many ways this notion exists only as an imaginary catering to the tastes and expectations of new consumers. As such, the history of these rice varietals as an "anti-commodity" is eroding. (Glover and Stone, 2018) Building on the work produced by Glover and Stone, I explore through biocultural and commoditization discourses how these new appetites - fostered through a fetishized notion of 'heirloom' rice relate to other hungers for 'heirloom' crops around the globe. Engaging with the site of the restaurant, I also explore how "haute cuisine" a field dominated by mostly white men, has the power to shape the agrarian landscape for many. Unpacking these dynamics through an analysis of kitchen structures, commodification, political interest, and critical mapping, I show how the desire for "new" old food shapes the field of rice cultivation today.

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