Re-embedding food practices: agro-biodiversity preservation, heritage policies and the Andean potato

A.M.G. Arce, O. Ange, E. Fisher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


Biodiversity preservation is a major challenge facing humanity. Heritage policies are niche activities, which at face value contribute to a transition toward more just and sustainable food practices through improving livelihoods while protecting ecosystems. Worldwide, protection of landscapes or species draws a permanent link between ecological and symbolic values and cultural communities in charge of their preservation. This presentation focuses on the heritagization of potatoes, a crop for improving life conditions for peasant societies in the Andes. Heritage policies foster agricultural assets' commoditisation, calling for the assignation of monetary value to particular species. Thus heritagization fosters commodity ‘pathway diversions’, following Kopytoff's expression. Pathway diversion means (a) that an object is removed from its commodity pathway for its protection and preservation, contributing to the singularization of the object. Diversion also occurs (b) when a previously removed object is commoditized through reentry into the commodity pathway after having gained value through its absence. The focus of this paper is to identify the pathway diversions of potatoes species generated by heritage policies; and how these diversions articulate with pre-existing local pathways and values. We focus on an FAO initiative for preserving agricultural systems and landscapes shaped by farmers and herders. Comparing the biographies of tubers, depending on their integration into safeguarding policies, this work evaluates production and/or destruction of economic, ecological and symbolic values in the process of heritagization. Attention is paid to clashes between regimes of value at particular stages of potatoes' social life to underline challenges regarding the articulation between local perspectives on biodiversity and ideologies promoted by external institution.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationXXVI European Society for Rural Sociology Congress, Book of Abstracts
Subtitle of host publicationPlaces of Possibility? Rural Societies in a Neoliberal World
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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