Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Greenhouse Governmentality: Protected Agriculture and the Changing Biopolitical Management of Agrarian Life in Jamaica

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Greenhouse Governmentality: Protected Agriculture and the Changing Biopolitical Management of Agrarian Life in Jamaica

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper draws upon Foucauldian theories of governmentality and biopower to examine the recent growth of greenhouse cultivation on the island of Jamaica. Greenhouse farming has been widely promoted as a means to enhance the efficiency, technological sophistication, and profitability of the island's traditional small-scale farmers. Following Foucault, and drawing on a series of interviews with greenhouse growers, we read this intervention as form of governmentality acting on the conduct and attitudes of Jamaican farmers. As a form of governmentality, greenhouse farming also represents a new and distinctive regime of biopower, one that intervenes with greater precision into the metabolism between the natural processes of the rural population and the vital properties of growing plants. Viewed as a form of biopower, the greenhouse calls particular attention to the ways in which assemblages of materials and technologies enable new forms of control and surveillance over the life processes associated with crop cultivation, thereby generating new kinds of affective relations and agrarian subjectivities. This capital- and chemical-intensive biopolitics, we argue, threatens to re-engineer Jamaica's agrarian milieu in ways that favor elite agricultural interests at the expense of long-standing traditional farming practices and the forms of socio-ecological metabolism upon which they are based.

Keywords

Agrarian life, biopower, Foucault, governmentality, greenhouse, Jamaica

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In April of 2008, on the heels of an electoral victory by the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), newly appointed Agricultural Minister Christopher Tufton delivered his first budget presentation before the Jamaican Parliament. He began by praising the work of Jamaica's traditional small farmers, but noted that many of them lacked formal training or an ability to understand the forces of global trade. The Minister then offered a contrast to this image, highlighting three young entrepreneurs who had recently taken up greenhouse farming and were "making agriculture work." Said Tufton (2008: n.p.):

   They have seen the new agriculture Mr. Speaker, driven by markets
   and technological improvements. However, they are in the minority.
   As a Government, we have a responsibility to encourage and
   facilitate the movement of this thinking into the mainstream. Mr.
   Speaker, this is the Government's vision, and the thinking that
   will drive our policy for the agricultural revolution which we must
   achieve.

Over the past decade, this vision of a technology- and market-driven agricultural 'revolution' has been advanced by successive governments in Jamaica, as well as by a number of regional and international aid agencies. And increasingly, this "new agriculture" has come to be symbolized by the country's emerging greenhouse sector. Greenhouse cultivation is frequently held up as an example of a new kind of farming, one characterized by technological sophistication, increased efficiency, and enhanced productivity. In this way, the greenhouse has become central to a wider discourse in Jamaica on the need to modernize the agricultural methods of Jamaica's traditional small-scale farmers, by reshaping the materials and bodily practices of agriculture and the identity of the farming subject.

In this paper, we draw upon Foucauldian understandings of governmentality to suggest that the promotion of the greenhouse model can be productively viewed as a shift in the regime of biopower governing rural life in Jamaica. Foucault's account of biopower, we believe, provides rich conceptual resources for understanding the ways in which governmental rationalities seek to manage the "natural forces" of population by shaping the conduct and comportment of subjects toward particular ends. In the Jamaican context, we suggest, what is at issue is not only control over the human population, but the regulation of agriculture as an assemblage of human and non-human vital forces. …

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