August 18 María del Refugio Boa Alvarado successfully defended her MSc-thesis ‘Resistance in Action; Mobilization of Mayan beekeepers against GM soy: The case of the ‘Colectivo MA OGM‘ for the Master International Master in Rural Development. Below a post by Maria.
Are you interested on social movements? On Indigenous rights? On collectives and their practices? For years, many social scientists have been fascinated by the study of social movements and collective action. In my case, I am fascinated by the research of complex associations that frame and articulate their claims or grievances. Particularly, the processes of social transformation that have their grassroots within indigenous communities.
All over the world protests, resistances and collective actions have been raised against the industrial agriculture model that involves genetically modified (GM) crops and their biotechnology packages. The debate around them has been expanding over the years: from benefits and disadvantages of biotechnology in agriculture, to trade, environmental and human rights concerns. The impacts and potential risks of this industrial model have encouraged a worldwide assemblage of networks, organizations, and individuals that are resisting it, and constructing alternative production systems.
In the Yucatan Peninsula, a Mayan region of Mexico, a resistance movement to GMO’s has been unfolded since the authorization to cultivate GM soybean in the region. I chose this case for my thesis research where I explored how the resistance to GM soybean production in Mexico is setting up a social movement. While many studies on social movements exist, so far there is a shortage of studies on collective action with a network and an assemblage perspective. This type of research can contribute to understand a social movement as an assemblage by examining its affects and associations, including socio-material relations. It also recognizes the context, background and complexity of these associations.
In this case, multiple and fluctuating practices underlie the territorialisation of the pro-Mayan assemblage. Their practices cross-cut legal and political arenas, and have produced spaces for contestation, interaction and reflection to resist a model of GMO industrial production. The thesis recounts the resistance to GMO’s in the Mayan region in three episodes: I) The authorization of GM soybean and its affects; II) the MA OGM (Mayan for ‘no to GMO’) movement: The processes of becoming; and III) the Mayan indigenous consultation process. The spaces of becoming involve heterogeneous actors who affect or are affected in multiple practices and associations. The motivations of people involved in the resistance movement are often associated with personal experiences, social injustices, environmental concerns and economic drivers, or even a combination of all these factors. To resume, the affective flows can generate or dissolve the associations. Therefore, the case studied is an assemblage of assemblages in a continuous state of becoming. Moreover, it produces alternative discourses (such as multicultural rights, biocultural heritage and a dignified life) and knowledges otherwise.