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Basket Cases and Breadbaskets: Sacred Rice and Agricultural Development in Postcolonial Africa



Based on ethnographic research among rural Diola in Guinea-Bissau, I provide a broad view of the history and interpenetration of rice in social, political, religious, and ecological domains, while chronicling the current difficulties of residents in this region who are no longer able to grow enough of it. These farmers' experiences are unfolding at a time of revitalized attention to agricultural development in Africa, particularly under the auspices of the New Green Revolution for Africa. I examine the premises that constitute the resuscitated effort to address the plight of African farmers. I argue that the totalizing quality of rice in Diola and other rice-cultivating societies requires a development approach that takes into account dimensions of agrarian life not encapsulated by the high-modernist and antipolitical orientation of the New Green Revolution for Africa.