In Situ-Centered: Community-based Research for Agrobiodiversity, Agrarian Justice & Indigenous Data Sovereignty

Authors: Garrett Graddy-Lovelace*, American University School of International Service
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Rural Geography, Food Systems
Keywords: agriculture, food, seeds, data, knowledge, research
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 39
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Under what conditions does agricultural biodiversity fulfil its potential to nourish communities? This paper traces a series of three encuentro shared-analysis sessions that advanced community-based research to answer the question: in Appalachia US, Yucatán México, and Andean Perú. The resulting bilingual Agrobiodiversity Nourishes/Agrobiodiversidad Nutre: A Research & Policy Guide centers indigenous expertise, cosmovision, language (Mayan, Quechua, and Tsalagi/Cherokee), and data sovereignty, as well as African diaspora and immigrant diaspora seedways in Appalachia. Key throughlines emerged and sharpened during the pandemic, such as the urgency for: decentralized, place-based, and resilient food systems; affordable, nutrient-dense, and culturally beloved foods for immunity; and fair prices for farmers, farmworkers, and food providers. Land tenure concerns also arose, as well as the need for access to seeds and germplasm to adapt and share. All three regions struggle against colonial legacies of racism, classism, indigenous erasure, and gendered hierarchies of farming over gardening, production over social reproduction. But all three Encuentros laud female elder leadership and expertise and intergenerational foodways. The encuentros focused on non-extractive research ethics, for biocultural protocols for community-led inquiry, scholarly accountability, and decolonizing intellectual property regimes. The Encuentros counter the dominant, ex situ-centric spatiality of both agrobiodiversity conservation and data collection: wherein seeds and knowledge are taken from out in the field and brought back to centers of calculation and enclosure. Rather the Encuentros work towards in situ-centered epistemology, wherein gene banks and universities re-orient to serve the need of in vivo agricultural biodiversity cultivation and place-based agrarian knowledge recovery and justice.

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