SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

What's in a name? What's in a grain? Standardization, Geographical Indication, and the De/Re-colonization of basmati rice in India

Shaila Seshia Galvin

Date: 5 December 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 5 December 2019Time: 8:30 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B103

Type of Event: Seminar


Examining the configuration of export quality organic basmati rice in India, this paper reflects on how the materiality of rice conditions, and is conditioned by, national and international regimes of standardization and Geographical Indication (GI). It asks a question which might appear self-evident: what is basmati? Drawing on research conducted in Uttarakhand’s Doon Valley, the paper addresses this question by juxtaposing the cultivation of a local basmati cultivar with the production of export-quality organic basmati. An ethnographic orientation toward the interface of plant liveliness, human labor, and regimes of standardization, offers a place from which to think through the ways that legal protections such as GI, ostensibly afforded in part to ensure the decolonization of natural resources, may simultaneously abet processes of their recolonization.


Shaila Seshia Galvin conducts research at the intersection of environmental, political, and economic anthropology. She holds a PhD in Anthropology and Forestry and Environmental Studies from Yale University. Her recent research focuses on processes of agrarian change, particularly in India, and has addressed issues related to sustainable agriculture as well as agricultural biodiversity and intellectual property. Professor Galvin is currently completing a book manuscript, based on her doctoral research in northern India, which explores the rise of commercial organic agriculture and along with it third-party certification, standardisation and contract farming in the first decades of the 21st century. Her future research will examine intersections of agriculture and bioeconomies, as well as the proliferation of audit technologies and accounting methodologies as tools of environmental management and governance.

Chair: Rochana Bajpai

The event is free to attend but registration essential. Click here to register. 

Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute and Law, Environment and Development Centre

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