Native Maize Varieties and Ideas of Purity and Contamination in Local Crops in San Miguel del Valle, Oaxaca

Date and Time: 
Friday, 10 May, 2019 - 14:15
, Adele - Harvard University (undergraduate)

The state of Oaxaca, Mexico is the center for the origin and diversity of maize (Zea mays). This diversity has been threatened as free trade agreements and climate change limit the ability of many communities to continue their subsistence agricultural practices. My research seeks to understand how ideas of contamination and localness shape rural Oaxacans' perspectives on their seeds and efforts to conserve them despite the decreasing practice of subsistence agriculture. I conducted ethnographic research and collected maize samples from farmers in San Miguel del Valle, a Zapotec community in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. By combining a genetic study to test for transgenic contamination in native maize varieties with ethnographic accounts of seed saving practices and perspectives on local crops and agricultural practices, this project aims to provide insight into how conceptions of crop locality and purity shape community members' agricultural practices and feelings about their seeds and food.