#TMFF (The Markets For Farmers, August 11, 2018):

Do you consume Garcinia? What does it mean to (not) own land or the forests? Do farms and forests lie on a continuum? Can forests themselves be farmed? Does wildlife conservation impact people for whom forests are a source of livelihood? Do we eat what some animals would not eat? Do you primarily eat (volatile) fresh produce? How are agricultural markets different from, and similar to, other markets? Is the Market an alien imposition atop the subsistence ‘economy’? Why are farmers often price takers? Where does market power emanate from, & what leads to interlocking and/or intermediation? Does ‘exchange’ capture more value than production? How is rice different from wheat? Have agrarian worlds always been rich exchange environments? Can agriculture generate sufficient surplus to support empires (or families)? Are small-farm farmers always more productive? Why isn’t there economies of scale in production? What makes agriculture so, so, complex? Are farmers becoming workers? Does Nature need to be protected from agriculture? Should seeds be preserved in seed banks, or plates, or Half-Earth? Are all consumers a member of the agrarian community? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from anthropology (Dr. Mekhala Krishnamurthy, Ashoka University, Delhi (NCR)), ecology (Dr. Nitin D. Rai, ATREE, Bangalore), & economics (Dr. Vamsi Vakulabharanam, UMass, Amherst).

Listen in…

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TMFF show.

Dr. Mekhala Krishnamurthy (anthropology) is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Ashoka University, Delhi (NCR). She is also a Non-Resident Scholar at the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) at the University of Pennsylvania (USA). She has a B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard University (USA, 2002), an M.Phil. in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University (UK, 2003), and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from University College London (UK, 2011). As a social anthropologist, she is interested in the ethnographic study of the state and market, and in particular, the political economy, regional histories, everyday lives, knowledge resources, and institutional practices of public systems and programmes in contemporary India. Over the last fifteen years, her research, policy and professional engagements have involved work across a range of field sites and subjects, including women’s courts and dispute resolution, community health workers and public health systems, agriculture with a focus on agricultural markets, and water, livelihood security and land acquisition. Dr. Krishnamurthy is currently completing a book manuscript, titled, ‘The Mandi: Life and Time in an Indian Agricultural Market’, that traverses a century of transformation in the social, economic and political lives of an agricultural market in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, the book explores the interconnections of changing agrarian practices, reforming agricultural commodity markets, the dynamics of political participation, and the forces of local, regional and corporate capital as they are experienced and expressed in the everyday lives and relationships of farmers, traders, labourers, state functionaries, and private corporations. As part of a research fellowship, awarded by Gates Foundation to CASI, she is also undertaking new interdisciplinary and comparative research on agricultural markets in Punjab, Bihar and Odisha.

Dr. Nitin D. Rai (ecology) is currently Fellow at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore. He has been a Consultant with Forests and Livelihoods Programme, Centre for International Forestry Research, Bogor (Indonesia), and a visiting researcher at IMAZON, Belem (Brazil). He was also Associate Researcher at the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore, and a teaching assistant at the Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, USA. Dr. Rai completed his B.Sc. in Environmental Science from Bangalore University (1987), and a M.Sc. in Wildlife Biology from Wildlife Institute of India (Dehradun, 1991). Subsequently, he went to Pennsylvania State University (USA, 2003), where he completed his Ph.D. where his thesis was titled ‘Human use, reproductive ecology, and life history of Garcinia gummi-gutta, a non timber forest product, in the Western Ghats (India)’. After his Ph.D. he shifted focus to look more closely at the politics of wildlife conservation, where his work is centrally focused on how modern conservation approaches and the expropriation of forests for wildlife conservation are affecting the livelihoods of people. Some of his notable projects include ‘Community-based Integrated Biodiversity Management of Forested-Landscapes in the Western Ghats’ (funded by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust), and ‘Understanding human-wildlife conflict in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple wildlife sanctuary in the context of the Forest Rights Act 2006’ (funded by The Norwegian Embassy). His research has been published in journals such as Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), Conservation Biology, & Conservation and Society (of which is he currently an Editor). Dr. Rai has been awarded the Fulbright Nehru Environmental Leadership Fellowship (2010), the Ben Hill Award for Plant Ecology Research (2001, Pennsylvania State University), & Salim Ali Fellowship (1989-1991, Wildlife Institute of India).

Dr. Vamsi Vakulabharanam (economics) is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA. Previously he has taught at the City University of New York (CUNY, 2004-2008) and at the University of Hyderabad (2008-2014). He was a grantee at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET, NY) between 2011 and 2014 on a project titled ‘Economic Development and Inequality: What Can the Asian Experience Teach Us?’, and a Fellow of the India China Institute (ICI) of the New School (NY) between 2008 and 2010. He obtained his Ph.D. in Economics from University of Massachusetts Amherst (2004), from where he also completed his M.A. in Economics. He also previously completed his MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur (1994), & B. E. in Computer Science from NIT, Warangal (1992). His research interests are political economics, urban development, firm and labor processes, & Marxian economics. He has worked on issues pertaining to agrarian change in the context of globalization in developing economies, agrarian cooperatives, the relationship between economic development and inequality, and capitalist crises. His recent research focuses on income/consumption and wealth inequality in China and India during the period of economic reforms. He is currently analyzing questions of inequality and segregation in two Indian Cities – Hyderabad and Mumbai. He has published his work in academic journals, including World Development, Development and Change, Journal of Peasant Studies, Journal of Development Studies, Review of Radical Political Economics, Economic and Political Weekly and Ethics and Economics, and has chapters in multiple books. In 2017, Routledge published one of his co-edited works titled ‘China, India and Southeast Asia: Paths to development and state society relations’. He is also a recipient of the first Amartya Sen award (for Economics) given to distinguished social scientists by the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR, 2013).

Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.

#TMFF mentionsLouis Dumont, Nikolai Vavilov, Karl Polanyi, Sidney W. Mintz, E. O. Wilson, Tania Li, Anna L. Tsing, David Ludden, & Ursula Münster, among others.