Extractive Peasants: Rushing for a livelihood? — ASN Events

Extractive Peasants: Rushing for a livelihood? (12898)

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt 1
  1. The Australian National University, Watson, ACT, Australia
This presentation explores how the peasant labour processes are being reconfigured in the Global South by contemporary rural and agrarian change, with particular focus on their incorporation into informal mining: the exchange of ploughs for picks. To address this question, it draws on recent scholarship that has problematised the classical understandings of agrarian transition by going beyond the question of how capitalism transforms peasant production systems to encompass broader sources of social and economic change in rural areas. Following this thread of argument, this paper shows that throughout the global south, peasants on mineral-rich tracts are being driven into what are generally portrayed as illicit and disruptive mining practices by rising commodity prices, increasing input costs and poor returns from agriculture, authoritative resource governance by states that favour large corporations, and poor environmental care by these operators. The aim in exploring the political economy of extraction by peasants is to expand the notion of extractive industries, to dig through the contemporary sense of anxiety over such mining, and to extend the livelihoods diversification-versus-degrarianisation debate. Such analytical approaches to mineral-dependence would enable social scientists to shift away from the macroeconomic theory of resource curse or the top-down 'greed and grievance' view, and place the geophagous peasants within the body literature on agrarian change, by linking mining history with contemporary labour theories and those on the informal economy.