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The Nectar of Life: Fermentation and the ambivalences of Natural Farming in India

IFEK trifft Bremen NatureCultures Lab |19 Nov 2019 (Di) | 18-20h | Rotunde (Cartesium)

Institut und Bremen NatureCultures Lab laden ein zum öffentlichen Vortrag von Daniel Münster. Auch eine gute Gelegenheit unseren derzeitigen Vertretungsprof. für Public Anthropology-Professur kennen zu lernen.

Daniel Münster (Bremen/Heidelberg)|The Nectar of Life: Fermentation and the ambivalences of Natural Farming in India

In response to ecological and financial crisis, small-scale farmers in India are experimenting with ferments as a way to recuperate their fields from decades of chemical inputs and make them financially more autonomous. This paper focusses on jīvāmṛta, the “nectar of life” a fermented preparation brewed by so-called Zero Budget Natural Farmers (ZBNF) out of the urine and dung of native cows. The nectar of life is the cornerstone of a system of alternative agriculture that was invented by farmer, scientist, and guru Subhash Palekar. ZBNF is based on farmers caring for soil as a living organism with the help of beneficial microbes. This paper shows how the movement's practice and theory of fermentation performs an ontological-political shift from mainstream, post-Green Revolution, agricultural science and practice in India, towards a micro centric cosmology of humans, cows, plants, beneficial microorganism and elements working together for mutual benefit. However, this symbiotic reconceptualization of more-than-human health on the farm is also implicated in what I call bionativist critique. The native cow (Bos indicus) as the key provider of microbial abundance connects ZBNF not only with critique of mainstream agriculture and of epistemic and biological imperialism, but also with Hindu nationalist discourses of cow protection. Focusing on the making, the theory and the context of jīvāmṛta this paper raises concerns about the implications of a remarkably sophisticated agro-ecological cosmology with patriarchal metaphors and bio-nationalist conspiracy theories about alien plants, animals and sciences.