My research is broadly concerned with political ecology, alternative economic networks, and gender in the Commonwealth of Dominica, Eastern Caribbean. Specifically, I am interested in the interplay between contemporary manifestations of agri-food governance and endogenous systems of food production and exchange as well as how such interactions and practices influence and are influenced by gender, family relations, and other community networks of care, support, and obligation.
The Commonwealth of Dominica is a rural island nation in the Eastern Caribbean in which most households remain dependent upon agriculture, both for subsistence and exchange. Despite the fact that women have major roles in growing and marketing much of the food consumed locally, it is commonplace for their contributions to go unacknowledged in state policy and development interventions related to the agricultural economy (Berleant-Schiller and Maurer 1993; Mantz 2007), which focus on export production and formal market exchange.
This is in large part due to Dominica’s history of global economic integration and agricultural development, which has fostered the gendered bifurcation of agricultural production (Maurer 2000; Trouillot 1988). Today, localized forms of food production and exchange are dominated by women, while the agro-export sector is associated with men. This gendered segregation of productive activity has had major impacts both for women and the local food economy. However, despite this marginalization, it is these local economic networks that today safeguard the sustainability of agricultural production (Grossman 1993; Grossman 1998; Moberg 2008; Peteru, Regan, and Klak 2010), ensure high levels of food security and health throughout the country (GCD 2009; Reading 1989), and provide economic stability and autonomy for many households and communities (Trouillot 1988; French 1997; Honychurch 1984).
Within the contemporary context of globalization and neoliberalism, multiple manifestations of global agri-food governance (from Organic and Fair Trade certifications to EU health and safety standards) have had significant impacts upon both the agro-export sector and the local food economy in Dominica and the wider Eastern Caribbean region (Moberg 2008; Moberg 2014; Slocum 2006; Green 2007; Babb, Babb, and Whittaker 2004). As commercial export agriculture has floundered, many farmers and traders (both women and men) have actively participated in a continual struggle to remain economically viable while retaining autonomy and purpose in their work. These struggles against domination and (neo)colonial control reference deep-seated cultural and moral values of independence, flexibility, and cleverness for which Caribbean societies are well-known (Wilson 1973; Besson 1993; Freeman 2001; Freeman 2007; Browne 2004). Further, and as suggested by my preliminary work, the strategies and options available to individuals as well as the resulting reconfigurations of productive activity are profoundly gendered.
My dissertation research will investigate the ways in which farmers, families, and communities seek out and continually reconfigure alternative spaces of economic autonomy through the production and exchange of food, as well as how such spaces and the social networks through which they operate are influenced by gender. In so doing, I hope to contribute to our practical and theoretical understanding of gender, morality, and alternative economic systems, as well as the ways in which structures of power are confronted, resisted, and mediated by local, place-based praxis in ways that create and reproduce strong, resilient, and autonomous local economies.
Babb, Cecilia, Jahranga Babb, and Undene Whittaker. 2004. “Feasibility Study on Supporting Women Traders in the Eastern Caribbean”. UNIFEM Caribbean Office.
Berleant-Schiller, Riva, and William M. Maurer. 1993. “Women’s Place Is Every Place: Merging Domains & Women’s Roles in Barbuda & Dominica.” In Women and Change in the Caribbean, edited by Janet Momsen, 65–79. Kingston Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, Indiana University Press.
Besson, Jean. 1993. “Reputation & Respectability Reconsidered: A New Perspective on Afro-Caribbean Peasant Women.” In Women and Change in the Caribbean, edited by Janet Momsen, 15–37. Kingston Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, Indiana University Press.
Browne, Katherine. 2004. Creole Economics: Caribbean Cunning under the French Flag. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Freeman, Carla. 2001. “Is Local: Global as Feminine: Masculine? Rethinking the Gender of Globalization.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 26 (4).
———. 2007. “The ‘Reputation’ of Neoliberalism.” American Ethnologist 34 (2): 252 – 267.
French, Joan. 1997. “Gender Issues in Caribbean Agriculture.” In Gender, a Caribbean Multi-Disciplinary Perspective, edited by Elsa Leo-Rhynie, 311–323. Kingston Jamaica: Ian Randle.
GCD, Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica. 2009. “Country Poverty Assessment – Dominica V1.” Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica. Roseau, Dominica.
Green, Cecilia. 2007. “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Mercantilism and Free Trade.” Race & Class 49 (2): 41 – 56.
Grossman, Lawrence. 1993. “The Political Ecology of Banana Exports and Local Food Production in St. Vincent, Eastern Caribbean.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 83 (2).
———. 1998. “The Political Ecology of Bananas Contract Farming, Peasants, and Agrarian Change in the Eastern Caribbean”. Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press.
Honychurch, Lennox. 1984. The Dominica Story. Roseau, Dominica: Dominica Institute.
Mantz, Jeffrey. 2007. “How a Huckster Becomes a Custodian of Market Morality: Traditions of Flexibility in Exchange in Dominica.” Identities 14 (1-2): 19 – 38.
Maurer, William M. 2000. “Sexuality and Separate Spheres.” In Gender Matters: Rereading Michelle Z. Rosaldo, edited by Alejandro Lugo and Bill Maurer, 90–115. Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press.
Moberg, Mark. 2008. Slipping Away: Banana Politics and Fair Trade in the Eastern Caribbean. New York: Berghahn Books.
———. 2014. “Certification and Neoliberal Governance: Moral Economies of Fair Trade in the Eastern Caribbean.” American Anthropologist 116 (1) (March 21): 8–22. doi:10.1111/aman.12073.
Peteru, Swetha, Seann Regan, and Thomas Klak. 2010. “Local Vibrancy in a Globalizing World: Evidence from Dominica, Eastern Caribbean.” Focus on Geography 53 (4) (December 15): 125–133. doi:10.1111/j.1949-8535.2010.00015.x.
Reading, Alison. 1989. An Integrated Approach to Rural Production: A Case Study from Dominica, West Indies. Reading England: Dept. of Geography University of Reading.
Slocum, Karla. 2006. Free Trade & Freedom: Neoliberalism, Place, and Nation in the Caribbean. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1988. Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the World Economy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Wilson, Peter. 1973. Crab Antics: The Social Anthropology of English-Speaking Negro Societies of the Caribbean. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Other projects include…
I am also interested in visual ethnography. I have worked on several projects, including a photo essay of homelessness in Eugene as well as a multilingual documentary film exploring the Latino experience in Oregon.
As an undergraduate, I conducted research in hexagonal France on heritage, identity, and the modernization of produits de terroir (France’s regional-specific food products).