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Keywords:

  • Barbados;
  • participatory video;
  • life history method;
  • situated knowledges;
  • sugar;
  • EU sugar reform

This paper draws inspiration from an elderly sugarcane farmer in Barbados, Mr Thompson, who took part in a participatory video (PV) project and informal life history interviews with the author in 2007. The author mobilises Mr Thompson's life history as a situated account of the influence of the European Union (EU) sugar regime, considering how this trade regime and the local state-owned sugar industry have been implicated in his life. It is demonstrated how Europe's wide-reaching trade agenda is embodied in both the life history and the living present of a particular individual. Tracing the story of Mr Thompson, the paper draws heavily on his own words and audio-visual presentations. From these video-based expressions, we glimpse relations between a personal history, a set of embodied encounters and a broader (post)colonial legacy. Mr Thompson evokes an alternative understanding of sugar in Barbados, acting as a counterpoint to claims that promote neoliberal reform. Charting the experiences of one person, the paper suggests, offers a useful and valid position from which to critique the EU sugar reform at large. Finally, the paper discusses how a methodological coupling of PV and life history interviewing provided a valuable tool for engaging with and expressing situated knowledges.