Monday, April 18, 2011

Public(izing) GMOs, (De)constructing Binaries

RBJ Walker once said that answers come cheaply, but question cost considerably more. It takes a lot of effort to craft questions in dialogical and constructive ways (in ways that advance ideas and lay bare assumptions and create critical reflection without engaging in personal polemics). A few weeks ago, Dr. Geeta Chowdhry gave a presentation on her sabbatical research in India. In Walker’s mode of inquiry, I hope to go for broke.

Chowdhry’s examines how politics over GMOs and BTs fall increasingly into hybrid judicial spaces. The judiciary, as an arm of the government, increasingly has become a civil society actor, and various groups are using it as such, to check government power (Suman Sahai, Vandana Shiva, Aruna Rodriguez). Beyond the judiciary, there has been unprecedented public meetings around the country about government responses to GMOs with massive protests outside and four-hour meetings inside, creating in some sense a deliberative space. In both sites, actors have struggled over what public deliberation has meant (what counts as argumentation, what public space means, who gets to speak, what form of address the speech should take) and a unitary nationalism has been increasingly collapsed into science (making a critique on science a critique on nationalism, and reproducing a monolithic national culture).

This raises several questions:

  1. What are the boundaries of this public sphere or these counterpublics around GMOs and BTs? Is this a nascent public sphere or a continuing counterpublic (drawing from previous efforts at contentious politics)? If this is a counterpublic, what is the public sphere in India (is it simply a synonym for civil society or something more)?

  2. What demarcates this speech community (counterpublic/public sphere) from other more geographically broad ones (antiglobalization, human rights, etc.)? Is such a demarcation analytical, political, empirical – or all three?

  3. What repertoires are these practices in India drawing upon? Is this a reiteration/appropriation of subcommandante Marcos and the Landless People’s Movement in Brazil?

  4. How are metaphors being used to connect spaces analytically, rhetorically?

  5. How is this hybridity connected to the struggle of bodies within India and globally?

  6. How are anticapitalist and procapitalist ideologies (from Indian and Western traditions) mapped onto these hybrid spaces?

  7. Other than the location of the judiciary, who else is engaging in hybridity? Where are and how is demarcation struggling against ambivalence?

  8. Is ambivalence being coopted into a multicultural liberalism that negates coercion? Or will it be in the future?

  9. Is the assertion of hybridity, in this case, recreating binaries dominant within the public sphere literature – at what cost?

I hold some provisional answers from my theoretical positions, but I want to remain ambivalent in answers, structured in questions.