The Great Convergence? Agricultural Modernization and its Others in Global Perspective (1/2)

Gehe zu: Teil (2/2)
Donnerstag (21. September 2023), 16:30–18:00
SH 2.101
Stefan Ouma (Universität Bayreuth)
Michael Spies (Eberswalde)
Modernization, originating from different power centres (‘the West’, the former Soviet Union, China), remains the dominant paradigm of agrarian change. This session discusses points of con- and divergence among discourses on agrarian change in different parts of the world.

Abstract der Sitzung

In the variegated history of both socialist and capitalist agriculture, the politics of large-scale agrarian change have predominantly been legitimized by invoking tropes of ‘modernization’. Today, ‘modern agriculture’ is mobilized as a technological fix to deal with a diverse range of agrarian problems. These conceptions of modern agriculture have traveled from hegemonic epistemic centers to ‘the margins’. A powerful market-based notion of ‘modernity’ originating in the Euro-Atlantic North considers agricultural production as modern if its productivity and efficiency levels guarantee competitiveness in global commodity markets. Other modernizationist logics include the idea of technological taming of nature, as evident, for instance, in the vast agricultural intensification projects in the former Soviet Union and policies of the Green Revolution in South(east) Asia and Africa.

Recently, one could observe a diversification of modernization narratives. Notions such as ‘Sustainable Intensification’, ‘Green Economy’, ‘Bioeconomy’, and ‘Smart Agriculture’ find their ways into international politics, recalibrating market-based conception of modernization. China may be considered a new hegemonic center of a particular version of (agricultural) modernity that features state-led, top-down organization of economic activities and is justified by values of ‘national development’. Likewise, national discourses of agricultural modernization have emerged in other parts of the Global South that celebrate agribusiness development and technological innovation, departing from previously dominant market-based discourses.

Yet, despite the apparent plurality of conceptions of agricultural modernization, realities on the ground seem to converge: corporate agriculture, dispossession from land, and marginalization of small producers (incl. pastoralists) continue to persist independently of the underlying modernity narrative. Accordingly, oppositions to the politically dominant conceptions of (agricultural) modernity emerge, organized within environmental justice, agroecology, degrowth movements in various parts of the world.

With this panel, we want to discuss focal points for convergence as well as divergence among discourses on agricultural modernization (and its others) and how they shape local realities. In how far do the politically dominating narratives of agricultural modernity in different parts of the world converge despite their apparent differences? How do these narratives manifest in agrarian policies, practices, and imaginaries? Where do these ideas originate from, and how do they shape realities on the ground? And finally, what other visions of agriculture exist, where do they originate from, and in what might they converge globally, too?

We welcome empirical and theoretical contributions addressing (some of) these questions from various angles (local case studies, policy analyses, conceptual discussions, etc.) and focusing on different parts of the world.