This first sustained ethnographic study of organic agriculture outside the United States traces its meanings, practices, and politics in two nations typically considered worlds apart: Latvia and Costa Rica. Situated on the frontiers of the European Union and the United States, these geopolitically and economically in-between places illustrate ways that international treaties have created contradictory pressures for organic farmers.
Organic farmers in both countries build multispecies networks of biological and social diversity and create spaces of sovereignty within state and suprastate governance bodies. Organic associations in Central America and Eastern Europe face parallel challenges in balancing multiple identities as social movements, market sectors, and NGOs while finding their place in regions and nations reshaped by world events.
Addresses the troubled relationship between locally meaningful organic practices of farming and trade demands for harmonization of legislation that both promise to provide markets for and constrain those practices.
Heather Paxson, author of The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America
Organic Sovereignties is gently provocative and covers entirely new ground. It goes far beyond the debates on organic certification and conventionalization that have preoccupied so much scholarship on organic agriculture and focuses instead on how imagined agrarian histories and the respective relationships to (post)colonial and (post)socialist states shape organic farmers’ subjectivities.
Julie Guthman, author of Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California
Organic Sovereignties is a nuanced ethnographic exploration of how the daily practices of organic agriculture and agrarian livelihoods transcend national borders and facile distinctions between 'first' and 'third' worlds. Aistara's research provides critically important insights into how small-scale farmers are building sustainable rural futures within diverse political economic contexts.
Sarah Lyon, author of Coffee and Community: Maya Farmers and Fair-Trade Markets
Examining parallels in Latin America and post-Socialist Europe in terms of the organic agriculture movement, Organic Sovereignties sheds light on the effects of free trade, intellectual property rights, and food regulatory regimes on seed and food sovereignties and biodiversity conservation. What is exciting about it is Guntra Aistara's brave insistence to foreground the construction of "farmscapes as places" and the affective multispecies networks that arise from these hopeful cultivations. I know of no other work that so finely dissects the compelling promise as well as the structural limits of individual, cultural, and societal autonomy on sustainable choices and trajectories.
Virginia Nazarea, author of Heirloom Seeds and Their Keepers: Marginality and Memory in the Conservation of Biological Diversity
Organic Sovereignties provides a theoretically informed and politically committed criticism of the conditions under which the organic agriculture movement must operate, and creates a new methodological standard in using ethnography for transnational and trans-scalar comparison.
Zsuzsa Gille, author of Paprika, Foie Gras, and Red Mud: The Politics of Materiality in the European Union