Thursday, May 31, 2012

Myths and Narratives

Predicament of the present is all about failure of the dominant narratives of our times. Haven't inflated rhetoric of industrial agriculture, depicted as scientific and cutting-edge, been one such 'dominant narrative' that has been hard to criticize? Though the 'narrative' has been positioned around 'feed the world' logic, hunger and malnutrition has only continued to grow as a global problem. Without doubt, it may have served some purpose in feeding the teeming millions but not without destroying the 'alternative narratives' of organic or natural agriculture.
Narratives of industrial agriculture presume human control over and entitlements to the earth’s resources which must change if human societies have to survive and sustain future generations. A Whitney Sanford, a professor of religion at the University of Florida, presents the alternative narrative through the story of Balaram and the Yamuna river. Balaram has an interesting, if not paradoxical, relationship with the Yamuna river. While his forcible diversion of the river demonstrates his power over her, his moral duty to worship the river goddess reflects other aspect of their relationship. Balaram’s multiple obligations to the earth, his family and his subjects has been positioned as a ‘alternate narrative’ through which Sanford asks one of the central questions of this book: how can we balance the human need for agricultural production with the needs of the broader biotic community?
Using the moral tenants of the tale as commentary on contemporary society, Sanford emphasises the need for ‘alternate narrative’ that will help infuse responsible stewardship in agriculture. The trouble with ‘dominant narratives’ is that these are not only hegemonic but also, by virtue of being entrenched in dominant institutional spaces, do not allow alternative narratives to flourish. Myths and stories can dispel such narratives by providing the space through which ecological imagination in search of viable solutions can be expanded.
Insightful and scholarly at the same time, Sanford not only bridges cultural differences in agriculture but also shows how those differences hold the key to future sustainability. It is an important book that calls for paradigm shift in our current understanding on agriculture....Link
Growing Stories from India
by A Whitney Sanford
The University Press of Kentucky, USA
269 pages, US$ 40

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