Author: Owen McNamara
Dates: November 2023
Venue: The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Link to the publication:


The COVID-19 pandemic has been a period of inflection in the growth of native corn revivalism in Oaxaca, Mexico. New businesses opened selling food and drinks derived from native corn, events such as seed-swaps were inaugurated, and farmers who had previously grown hybrid corn began experimenting with native seeds. This revivalism was not merely commercial or gustatory, but entailed a re-evaluation by revivalists of their relationship to native corn. Such relationships became increasingly framed through mutual vulnerabilities. In this article I argue that native corn revivalism is a direct response to the COVID-19 crisis. I explore how vulnerability featured in my interlocutors’ tellings of the crisis, demonstrating that it offered an analytic through which they theorized and constructed relationships. This approach builds upon interpretations of crisis as narrative form, but turns its attention away from the power-effects of crisis narratives to instead look to the relationships that such narratives engender.