Decontextualized Knowledge, Situated Politics: The New Scientific–Local Politics of Rice Genetic Resources in Thailand


  • Witchuda Srang-iam

    1. Is Assistant Professor of Environmental Social Science at the National Institute of Development Administration, 118 Seri Thai Road, Bangkapi, Bangkok 10240 Thailand (e-mail: Her recent research interest focuses specifically on climate change adaptation and mitigation in agriculture, while engaging with broader theoretical issues such as social justice, legitimacy and learning across different communities of practice.
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The author wishes to thank Arun Agrawal for encouragement and guidance, and the editors as well as the three anonymous referees for their useful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article. This article is drawn from a chapter of the author's PhD dissertation conducted at the University of Michigan. The study was supported by the Rackham International Research Award and the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) PhD Research Scholarship.


Recent practices of scientific–local knowledge interaction in Thailand surrounding rice genetic resources have led to a new phenomenon, which this article calls knowledge inclusion. This study explores several forms of knowledge inclusion —participatory science, localized science, scientized knowledge and hybridized knowledge— as new loci of political practices among government rice breeders, non-governmental officials and farmers. Ethnographic studies are used to reveal that, through selectively incorporating elements of each other's knowledges, these scientific and local knowledge practitioners have drawn on the discourses of scientific–local knowledges to their political advantage. The ramifications of this new politics vary according to different political arenas in rice genetic resource management. Based on these findings, the article argues that recent practices of knowledge inclusion should not be obscured by the notion of situated knowledge, but should be understood as situated politics of decontextualized knowledge in genetic resource management. The argument reconceptualizes the new scientific–local politics as a synthesis between the power–knowledge relation and the power–structural context in which genetic resource management takes place.