Development discourse creates a narrative of the African continent as a singular, hungry place in need of urgent intervention. One intervention being pursued by international donors and African research councils are genetically modified (GM) crops. My research examines controversy surrounding the commercialization of GM crops in Ghana with a focus on plant breeding, regulatory and patent law, and anti-GM activism. I employ an ethnographic methodology to examine the intersections of taste, identity and commercialization across three sets of actors: Ghanaian scientists and bureaucrats working on GM projects, a large and active social movement opposing those projects, and farmers caught in the middle. I found that narratives of urgency overlook lifeworlds of food and agriculture – taste, identity and preference – in favor of regulation and commercialization of techno-scientific interventions.

By showing the local articulations of a global technology, my research demonstrates that subjectivity, state sovereignty, food and agriculture are intimately tied, and troubles popular narratives of Africans as passive recipients of aid and victims of modernity.

A day in the life of dissertation research looked something like this.

My dissertation research was generously funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Dissertation Fieldwork Grant), Fulbright-Hays Program (Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship), American University (Office of Graduate Studies Doctoral Student Research Award), and Explorers Club Washington Group (Exploration and Field Research Grant).