Special Section: Towards a political ecology of applied anthropology, edited by James R. Veteto and Joshua Lockyer

Ethnographic movement methods: anthropology takes on the pesticide industry



In this article, I describe how the methods of anthropology proved productive and fruitful for research and environmental justice (EJ) activism against methyl iodide, a highly toxic soil fumigant pesticide used to sterilize soil before food crops like strawberries are transplanted. I continue a thread of discussion around what roles anthropology, and especially, public and applied anthropology, should play in addressing the serious problems traditionally encountered, documented, analyzed, and theorized through ethnographic research. Anthropological engagement and action on methyl iodide and other soil fumigants produced unique research opportunities and networks up and down the agricultural hierarchy, as well as spaces to contribute ethnographic labor and critical analysis and reflection to the EJ movement. While this activist approach— what I refer to as 'ethnographic movement methods'—presented some challenges, the victorious end-result of having methyl iodide's manufacturer pull their product from the U.S. market in 2012 also demonstrated how anthropologists, in cooperation with communities confronted by environmental suffering, can work cooperatively towards alternative agricultural and ecological futures.

Keywords: activism, applied anthropology, environmental justice, farmworkers, ethnographic movement methods, pesticides

How to Cite: Saxton, D. I. (2015) “Ethnographic movement methods: anthropology takes on the pesticide industry”, Journal of Political Ecology. 22(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/v22i1.21114