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Zapotec Science: Farming and Food in the Northern Sierra of Oaxaca

By: Roberto J Gonzalez

360 pages, B/w photos, illus, tabs, maps

University of Texas Press

Paperback | Sep 2001 | #118967 | ISBN: 0292728328
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NHBS Price: £24.99 $33/€28 approx
Hardback | Sep 2001 | #118963 | ISBN: 029272831X
Out of Print Details

About this book

Zapotec farmers in the northern sierra of Oaxaca, Mexico, are highly successful in providing their families with abundant, nutritious food in an ecologically sustainable fashion, although the premises that guide their agricultural practices would be considered erroneous by the standards of most agronomists and botanists in the United States and Europe. In this book, Roberto Gonzalez convincingly argues that in fact Zapotec agricultural and dietary theories and practices constitute a valid local science, which has had a reciprocally beneficial relationship with European and United States farming and food systems since the sixteenth century. Gonzalez bases his analysis upon direct participant observation in the farms and fields of a Zapotec village.By using the ethnographic fieldwork approach, he is able to describe and analyse the rich meanings that campesino families attach to their crops, lands, and animals. Gonzalez also reviews the history of maize, sugarcane, and coffee cultivation in the Zapotec region to show how campesino farmers have intelligently and scientifically adapted their farming practices to local conditions over the course of centuries. By setting his ethnographic study of the Talea de Castro community within a historical world systems perspective, he also skilfully weighs the local impact of national and global currents ranging from Spanish colonialism to the 1910 Mexican Revolution to NAFTA.At the same time, he shows how, at the turn of the twenty-first century, the sustainable practices of 'traditional' subsistence agriculture are beginning to replace the failed, unsustainable techniques of modern industrial farming in some parts of the United States and Europe. Roberto J. Gonzalez holds a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he is currently a visiting lecturer in the Department of Anthropology.

This is a superb ethnographic work that can, and should, revolutionise a good deal of anthropology and the philosophy of science... For anyone interested in Latin American traditional agriculture, it will be a 'must read.' -Eugene Anderson, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside


Acknowledgments 1. The Conceptual Bases of Zapotec Farming and Foodways; 2. Locating Talea: Geography, History, and Cultural Contexts; 3. The Craft of the Campesino: Measures, Implements, and Artifacts; 4. "Maize Has a Soul": Rincon Zapotec Notions of Living Matter; 5. From Milpa to Tortilla: Growing, Eating, and Exchanging Maize; 6. Sweetness and Reciprocity: Sugarcane Work; 7. The Invention of "Traditional" Agriculture: The History and Meanings of Coffee; 8. Agriculture Unbound: Cultivating the Ground between Science Traditions Appendix A. Pronunciation of Rincon Zapotec Terms; Appendix B. Talean Food Plants; Appendix C. Talean Livestock and Game Animals; Appendix D. Selected Average Crop Yields; Appendix E. Recipes Notes; References; Index

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