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From Homo economicus to Complex Subjectivities: Reconceptualizing Farmers as Pesticide Users



Abstract:  Through empirical analysis and theory, this paper critiques technocratic regimes of protection vis à vis pesticide use, which are efforts limited to technical rationality and didactic communication of pesticide risks that model pesticide users as self-responsible individuals (ie Homo economicus). Data reveal that knowledge of pesticide risk does not translate into greater protective gear use, within the Costa Rican case presented and more broadly. This circumstance, across first and third world contexts, leads me to develop a more holistic conceptualization of farmers’ subjectivities that highlights numerous constraints—informational, political economic, cultural, individual, and environmental—to which farmers are subject. This conceptualization reveals the inadequacy of most efforts to address farmers’ protective gear use, and leads me to propose a multi-tiered solution to pesticide problems, including an industrial hygiene approach and fostering subjectivities through participatory research involving pesticide users.

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