"Towards a Political Theology of Rice"

Prof. Christopher A. Gregory
Visiting Professor at Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, Australian National University
15:00-17:00, March 3 (Wed), 2004
E207, East Building of CSEAS

Francesca Bray, in her The Rice Economies: Technology and Development in Asian Societies (1986), has argued that the particular ecology of monsoon Asia, together with the unique botanical properties of rice, has created a unique economic form in Asia that has far reaching implications for theories and policies of economic development. Her work poses the question: Is there a political culture of rice that mirrors this political economy of rice? Rice has a market value of obvious political significance but what is the political significance, if any, of its cultural and religious values? How are these economic and religious values related? My concern is not so much to answer these questions as to explore them by means of the comparative method. I was raised in a rice-farming community in Australia and have carried out fieldwork in a rice economy in India and a root-crop economy in Papua New Guinea. I consider these cases in the light of some anthropological accounts of the myths and rituals concerning rice in monsoon Asia.

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