Politics of Knowledge in Development: Explorations in Seed Sovereignty

Published date01 June 2021
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterSpecial Section Articles
Special Section Article
Politics of Knowledge in
Development: Explorations in
Seed Sovereignty
Pushpa Singh1
There is an existing debate on the epistemic hegemony of the knowledge system of industrial agricul-
ture. The two sides posit a critique and offer alternatives from already existing practices of agriculture.
Most often, the critique is on hard material grounds, while the alternatives are offered in terms of the
recovery of a cultural set of practices. This article posits a fresh critique to complement the existing
one and expands the scope of the alternative to make critical appraisals of existing knowledge systems.
For the first, it critically analyses each of the presumptions that underlie the argument of the dominant
vision and for the second, this article identifies, analyses and aims to foreground those perspectives
that contested major policy decisions and the reasons for their subsequent marginalization. The issue
of seed sovereignty—that of women farmers specially, retaining the authority to breed and propagate
seeds for farming—is the focal point of this study.
Seed sovereignty, politics of knowledge, epistemic hegemony, agricultural development, agroecology,
Agricultural modernization in India in the form of the Green Revolution and agricultural biotechnology
represents a hegemonic discourse rooted in the knowledge systems of industrial agriculture emanating
from the industrialized nations. This hegemony results not only in the epistemic subordination and sys-
tematic marginalization of the other existing practices of indigenous knowledge systems but also greatly
undermines the seed sovereignty of the farmers. Sovereignty denotes the autonomy of nation-states
against any external interference; and the idea of seed sovereignty derives from this, embodying the
freedom and rights of farmers over their seed, unimpinged by agribusiness and restrictive mechanisms
like intellectual property rights (IPRs) and patents. Seed sovereignty lies in the practices of seed saving,
sharing and reusing them freely by the farmers. Traditionally, these tasks have been performed by the
women in many farming communities, playing a crucial role in curation and conservation of seeds based
Studies in Indian Politics
9(1) 105–117, 2021
© 2021 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2321023021999179
1 Department of Political Science, Miranda House, University of Delhi, Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Pushpa Singh, Department of Political Science, Miranda House, University of Delhi, Delhi 110007, India.
E-mail: pushpa.s@mirandahouse.ac.in

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