Organized Panel Session
Scholarship on the Philippine economy has generally followed the trends of the state’s development strategies in its focus on human capital. Important research continues both on the transnational export of Filipino caregivers, blue-collar workers, and seamen (Choy 2003; Constable 1997; Fajardo 2011; Guevarra 2010; Parreñas 2015); and on the domestic transformation of the labor force in business process outsourcing (Padios 2018). Philippine agriculture, in contrast, has occupied a marginal role in the country’s industrial ambitions and has also claimed a narrowing space in the ambit of academic research. This is despite the fact that the agricultural sector remains a “central ground in and around which the rural poor construct, defend, maintain and consolidate their diverse livelihoods” (Borras 2007: 146).
Balik bukid, or “return to the field,” captures this panel’s effort to reposition Philippine agrarian studies as a critical source of insight for national and transnational discourse. We are inspired by previous work that has used agricultural commodities to understand the formation of social institutions (Aguilar 1998; Larkin 1993; McCoy 1992), global capitalist divisions of labor (David et al. 1983), and the failures of interventionist programs (Bello 2010; Cullather 2010). While carrying these themes forward, we seek to open new modes of inquiry for an era of tenuous food security, threatened indigenous rights, continuous land dispossession, and resurgent authoritarianism. Incorporating multidisciplinary and transnational perspectives, our papers represent the traditional (high-volume, low-value), non-traditional (low-volume, high-value), and non-plantation sectors; and bring into conversation varying colonial and post-colonial legacies, land-use strategies, and exchange relations.