Media @ McGill

Knowledge, Power, and Restraint: a Critical Analysis of agricultural seed technologies

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By Matti Turner

My research will apply critical technology studies to an examination of agricultural seed (and possibly soil) as a technology and a medium of communication, especially with regard to how it exists in networks of nested technologies and associated systems of knowledge and meaning. 

I intend to consider the ways in which radical creative freedom, inherent in technological thinking and action, depends on a conception of (living and non-living) material objects as “indifferent matter” and the how this conception conflicts with ontological systems that instead attribute intrinsic value to objects, thus establishing parameters of restraint around how objects are used.  Competing conceptions of agricultural seed and its attendant technologies and organisms range from the purely instrumental to the sacred.  These differences are at the center of important contemporary political, cultural, social, and economic conflicts.  I intend to articulate this problem through a critical-technological analysis of seed as technology.  I will consider ways in which seed, as a contextual technology, relates with other technologies, and to humans, ecological systems, and the re-production of knowledge, meaning, and power.  In order to do so I will employ a particular conception of “Significant Otherness,” especially as articulated in the writings of George Grant and Simone Weil, as an interpretive device.  I plan to test, refine, and ground this theoretical work in an examination of agricultural practices in Quebec’s Montérégie Region.