Speaker: Owen McNamara - Université libre de Bruxelles, BE
Dates: 21 > 23 March 2023
Venue: Arctic Centre - University of Lapland, Finland
Link: Artic Centre / Programme

Re-Making Relations with Corn in Pandemic Era Mexico


In Oaxaca, Mexico, there is a growing interest in cultivating and making use of native corn varieties (rather than standardised hybrids). Farmers, cooks, and others interested in native corn commonly use kinship terminology or suggest consubstantiality to describe their relationship to corn. While various Indigenous Mexican creation stories posit a human descent from corn, the relationality I observed is as much about current health and economic exigencies as it is about Indigenous cosmologies. Taking my lead from feminist anthropologists who have emphasised the active making of kinship, I explore how human-corn relations are pieced together. To do so I contextualise this uptick in native corn revivalism as intensifying during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in part responding to the Mexican government’s resolute failure to provide adequate healthcare measures to its citizens. I focus on how humans and corn are alternatively depicted as facing existential threats, requiring the care of the other in order to survive. It is this perceived need of care, within a moral-economy built around mutual aid, that serves to render human-corn relations into kinship.

Jacob with Corn, Mexico