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International Circulation of Knowledge Academic & Scientific Issues for Developing Countries

Circulación Internacional de Conocimientos

Cuestiones académicas y científicas en los países en desarrollo

MEXICO CITY, October 9-11, 2012

ORGANISED BY IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, France), CINVESTAV (Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional / Departamento de Investigaciones Educativas, México), UNAM-IISUE (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México / Instituto de Investigaciones Sobre la Universidad y la Educación, México) and Universidad de Panama, con el apoyo del programa OBSMAC del IESALC/UNESCO.

Working languages: Spanish, French, English

– The circulation of the knowledges within the framework of academic mobilities;
– The virtual mobilities: on-line collaborations, sharing of knowledge within teams and virtual laboratorios;
– Economical, Political & Historical perspective of international circulation of knowledge.
– Scientific relations between Europe and Latin America


Manuela Carneiro Da Cunha au Collège de France

Manuela Carneiro da Cunha a fait des études de Mathématiques à la Faculté des Sciences de Paris, avant de s’orienter vers l’anthropologie dans le séminaire de Claude Lévi-Strauss. Rentrée au Brésil, elle a été successivement professeur d’anthropologie à l’Université de Campinas et à l’Université de São Paulo. En 1994, elle est nommée professeur à l’Université de Chicago, où elle enseigne jusqu’en 2009. Ses travaux portent sur l’ethnologie amazonienne, sur l’identité ethnique, sur l’histoire des indiens et des lois de l’état brésilien envers les populations indiennes ; enfin, sur les savoirs traditionnels et sur les droits intellectuels qui leur sont associés. Depuis 1978, elle a pris une part active dans la défense des droits des populations traditionnelles. Elle est membre de l’Académie Brésilienne des Sciences et de la Third World Academy of Science, et elle a reçu le prix de la Francophonie de l’Académie Française.

Agenda :

The Struggle For Maize


Adding to the fast-growing literature on understanding the
multidimensional nature of commodities and crops is this welcome
contribution by Dalhousie University anthropologist Elizabeth
Fitting. _The Struggle for Maize_ is a deeply researched work, both
on broad transnational and local levels, that seeks to show « a few of
the ways that corn–as both a food and a crop–is fraught with
multiple layers of meaning, and how it has been portrayed by state
policy, bureaucrats, activists, academics, and local actors » (p.
232). More specifically, Fitting focuses on the three main elements
of central Mexican production: water, labor, and corn itself, and how
those work together, or have been affected by, the « neoliberal corn
regime » (p. 4). Thus, _The Struggle for Maize_ reveals and studies
the tension between small-scale agricultural producers, and their
uncertainties in trying to survive, and the larger globalized corn
markets and commodities regimes that have intensified pressures to
change under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and
other neoliberal economic policies. A huge dimension of those changes
has been the introduction from abroad of genetically modified (GMO)
maize varieties that have not only polluted the gene pool in the very
place where corn developed centuries ago, but that have also wreaked
havoc with local production and consumption patterns in Mexico.
Fitting’s goal, then, for such a project as this was not only to
provide the background and larger story to this whole scenario, but
also to provide a case study of how the changes have affected one
local area in south central Mexico, the Tehuecán Valley in the state
of Puebla, and specifically the village of San José Miahuatlán

Anthropologists, sociologists, and geographers will perhaps find this
case study more useful than historians and political scientists, who
will value more from the broader analyses of the neoliberal changes
associated with maize in Mexico. The author lived in San José
Miahuatlán for a significant period of time, conducting interviews
and placing the neoliberal changes in a very local perspective.
Fitting’s style is also more reflective of anthropologists’ and
sociologists’: social science formatting with parenthetical
citations, and heavy use of jargony buzz terms (this reviewer noticed
an almost endless string of terms like « market liberalization, »
« agricultural efficiency, » « politics of food, » « food regimes, » and
« food sovereignty »–not that any of those are not important for
readers to be aware of, they are; they were just overused in the
narrative). Some of the chapters were also too long and repetitive,
causing one to wonder about the editorial skills at Duke University

These style points, while unfortunately making the book less readable
and marketable to a wider audience than it could have been, however,
should not distract too heavily from its important content and
messages. There is exceptionally useful data and analysis here on the
national and local impact of GMO corn, there are chapters about how
neoliberal economic policies have accelerated Mexican immigration to
the United States (something that policymakers who support NAFTA but
then complain about the problem of « illegal » aliens and vote for
things like border walls should be far more aware of!), and analysis
of agricultural modernization and its impacts on rural communities.
Along the way, Fitting touches on the role of _maquiladora_
industries in Mexico and how they have been an option for rural women
seeking work in areas negatively impacted by the force of imported
(often GMO) corn that has replaced local agriculture. She briefly,
but importantly, discusses some of the environmental results of corn
monoculture (reduction of intercropping, dependence on chemicals,
salinization from increased irrigation, etc.). And she frames all of
this material with an analysis of globalization, the transnational
nature of « the neoliberal corn regime. »

All of this is important for scholars of Mexican agriculture,
environment, economics, and society, as well as for those interested
in the transnational connections and impacts of neoliberalism.
Fitting’s conclusions from her research are well told in the final
chapter, and she does not back away from enumerating the harms of
NAFTA that she has observed and documented. To her credit, she takes
an important stand based on what the book shows are the social and
agricultural ills of GMO corn imports into Mexico. But this scenario
does not cast the _campesinos_ of the Tehuecán Valley as total
victims in a larger world plot nor does it glorify an « Indian way »
versus contemporary times. Fitting eschews « peasant
essentialism »–romanticizing peasants’ and indigenous peoples’
« cultural alterity, or overemphasizing the similarity of experiences
across time and space » (pp. 233-234). Instead, _The Struggle for
Maize_ deals with the resilience of corn as a crop and commodity
_and_ as a cultural practice, despite the challenges presented by a
globalized economy that has introduced GMO corn varieties into
Mexico. Depending on one’s point of view, GMO may have accrued some
economic benefits here and there in the country (but certainly not in
San José Miahuatlán), but the agricultural, social, and
environmental harms it has presented, Fitting argues, outweigh those
benefits. And her book is successful in showing that, and thus is an
important contribution to that ongoing debate.

Citation: Sterling Evans. Review of Fitting, Elizabeth M., _The
Struggle for Maize: Campesinos, Workers, and Transgenic Corn in the
Mexican Countryside_. H-Environment, H-Net Reviews. August, 2011.

13 th congress of the international society of ethnobiology – Section 24 Historical and contemporary changes in importance of food plant use

to Montpellier (France), 20-25 May 2012


Session 24 :  Historical and contemporary changes in importance of food plant use



Why is a particular plant used as food or not is not such a simple question. Food plants are not selected just because they are edible. Plant use is embedded in the tangled web of nutrition, taste, classification of living objects, gathering/cultivating and processing techniques, use of labor, market price, ritual and symbolical values, worldview, and so on. In this session, we are interested in changes in the use and importance of food plants in various ecological and cultural backgrounds. We try to focus, on one hand, on historical changes in the use of some food plants as suggested by archaeological and other records, and on the other hand, on rather recent changes happening with modernisation, which are still traceable through oral information, and are often coupled with changes in the related social and agroecological systems. Some plants which play a minor role in present diet and agroecosystems may have been more important in the past. We therefore intend to explore the present and past management, use and processing of such plants to understand what were their benefits in the past, how and why they were left aside, and possibly, if they still have a potential for the future.  In the case of the recent changes, we wish to examine the multi-dimensional meanings of local agricultural systems, the relations between people and specific cultivated or semi-domesticated plant species, the link between plant use and social rules and the dynamics of human-plant relationships in the context of changes in the land use, in particular expansion of agriculture, often opposed to growing pressures from nature conservationnists.

Key questions addressed to participants: What part do the studied plants play in the present diet and agroecosystems? How are they collected/cultivated? How are they processed and consumed? How important are they today in the studied society? How are they viewed by outsiders? Are they ignored or do they play a different part? What part did they play in the past? How long ago? Which method allowed you to collect this data? Do you have material proofs or hypothesis? Do these plants still have a potential for the future? What are the advantages? What are the constraints?


Co-chairs :

Esther Katz

IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement)
CP 7091 – Lago Sul
71635-971 Brasília (DF) , BRASIL

Gen Yamakoshi

Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University
46 Yoshida-Shimoadachi-cho, Sakyo, Kyoto, 606-8501, JAPAN


Cesar Carrillo Trueba

Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Av. Universidad 3000, Circuito Exterior S/N
Delegación Coyoacán, C.P. 04510
Ciudad Universitaria
México D.F.,

Séminaire gouverner le vivant – Savoirs, Cultures et Politiques de la Biodiversité

Séminaire de recherche proposé par Valérie Boisvert (UR 199, IRD), Christophe Bonneuil (Centre A. Koyré, CNRS-Ehess- MNHN), Elise Demeulenaere (Eco-anthropologie & Ethnobiologie, CNRS-MNHN-Paris 7, associée à l’ISCC), Jean Foyer (ISCC, CNRS) et Frédéric Thomas (PALOC, IRD-MNHN)

Ce séminaire interdisciplinaire explore la diversité des dispositifs que mettent en place les sociétés
humaines pour gouverner le vivant, du gène à la biosphère. La biodiversité, comme façon de définir le
bon usage de la nature, est tout à la fois objet de savoirs et de pouvoir, dans des contextes culturels qui
déterminent en partie les représentations qui y sont associées. L’intérêt de ce séminaire est d’éclairer
l’objet biodiversité depuis les perspectives de disciplines différentes, de l’histoire et l’épistémologie
des sciences à l’économie, en passant par l’anthropologie, la sociologie et les sciences politiques. On
s’intéressera aux façons de se représenter, de connaître et de manipuler le vivant, aux dynamiques de
socialisation et de politisation de la biodiversité, ainsi qu’aux rapports complexes que celle-ci
entretient avec l’économie de marché.
Cette année, nous porterons une attention particulière aux évolutions de la gouvernance mondiale de
l’environnement (Sommet de la Terre Rio+20, rôle des acteurs industriels, ethnographie des
négociations globales, devenir des savoirs traditionnels suite au Protocole de Nagoya…), aux
différents instruments de marché pour gouverner la biodiversité (Droit de Propriété Intellectuels,
Paiement pour Services environnementaux, économie verte, …), ou encore aux expressions localisées
de cette gouvernance (articulation avec les savoirs locaux, mobilisation par les acteurs locaux de la
diversité bio-culturelle). Ce séminaire espère devenir un lieu de rapprochement entre les communautés
des sciences sociales et des sciences de la vie sur la gestion de la biodiversité, et un lieu de réflexivité
sur la place des savoirs dans celle-ci.


La gouvernance à l’épreuve des enjeux environnementaux et des exigences démocratiques







Ce hors-série de VertigO – la revue électronique en sciences de l’environnement, intitulé La gouvernance à l’épreuve des enjeux environnementaux et des exigences démocratiques, fait suite à un colloque organisé par la revue les 14 et 15 mai 2009. Ce colloque a rassemblé plus d’une cinquantaine de chercheurs-es et de professionnels-les s’intéressant aux questions de gouvernance environnementale à différentes échelles (locale, régionale, nationale, internationale et mondiale). Les nombreux textes publiés dans le cadre de ce hors-série mettent en perspective la multidisciplinarité et la pluralité des regards dans ce domaine de recherche et d’intervention