Milpa-Melipona-Maya

Mayan Interspecies Alliances Facing Agribiotechnology in Yucatan

  • Sainath Suryanarayanan Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Katarzyna Beilin Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Keywords: bees, biotechnology, Yucatan, multispecies, Mayan

Abstract

This paper examines an environmental conflict between Mayan communities and governmental authorities in Mexico’s Yucatan region. Mayan beekeepers attributed severe economic losses in honey production to the expansion of genetically engineered (GE) soy plantations. Beekeeping of Apis mellifera or “European” honey bees for the purposes of honey export is a key source of livelihood for Mayan communities. Mayan beekeepers mobilized to bring about a moratorium on GE-soy planting, but GE-seed corporations and farmers persuaded the government to lift the moratorium. We show that there is much more to the Mayan beekeepers’ resistance than their livelihood stakes in “European” bees. Focusing on historically shaped relationships between Mayan communities, milpa crops and indigenous Melipona bees, we develop the idea of interspecies alliance to explain the resistance of Mayan communities to the spread of GE-soy. Through ethnographically oriented fieldwork and archival research, our study sheds light on conjoined milpa-Melipona-Maya worlds struggling together to resist and survive in the face of interpenetrating climates of globalized capital and localized socio-ecological degradation. We also examine how the interspecies assemblage of milpa-Melipona-Maya has been transformed in the process through alliances with international foundations, religious groups, scientists, activists and alternative technologies.

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Published
2020-09-24
How to Cite
Suryanarayanan, S., & Beilin, K. (2020). Milpa-Melipona-Maya. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 19(2), 469-500. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1746
Section
Research