From scientific risk to <i>paysan</i> savoir -faire: Divergent rationalities of science and society in the French debate over GM crops

2005 2005

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

The French debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is more than a controversy about genetic science. It is also a conflict between two ways of seeing the world. In the French debate, there is a collision between two competing rationalities, one instrumental, the other, ‘socioethical’. When defined according to an instrumental rationality, actors tend to assess GMOs in terms of environmental and health risk. When defined according to a socioethical rationality, actors evaluate GMOs in relation to issues such as food quality or globalization. While scientists are the primary spokespeople for the instrumental rationality of risk, small paysan farmers are the main spokespeople for the socioethical rationality, invoking forms of cultural expertise to speak critically about GMOs. Drawing from ethnographic data collected in France during 1997–2000, historical sources, and contemporary theory including Foucault and Latour, this dissertation explores the success of paysan farmers such as José Bové from the Confédération Paysanne in shifting the site of discursive authority from scientists to farmers, turning an instrumental debate about ‘science’ into a broader debate about ‘the commodification of life’ and cultural identity in an age of globalization. This transformation of the French GMO debate, however, is implicit. Actors promoting particular rationalities of science and society may be unaware that they are doing so—and thus may be unaware of the broader implications for debates about technoscience. Nevertheless, the Confédération Paysanne's discursive maneuvers have broadened understandings of what may count as expertise for technoscience practice and policy making in the future.

Indexing (details)

Cultural anthropology
0326: Cultural anthropology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; French; Genetically modified organisms; Globalization; Science; Society
From scientific risk to <i>paysan</i> savoir -faire: Divergent rationalities of science and society in the French debate over GM crops
Heller, Chaia L.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 66/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780496976591, 0496976591
Escobar, Arturo
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.