Caterina Scaramelli

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Boston U.

Grant number

Gr. 10579

Approve Date

September 29, 2023

Project Title

Scaramelli, Caterina (Boston U.) "What Seeds Carry: Sprouting, Keeping, and Exchanging Locality in Turkey"

Agricultural seeds carry long-term histories, cultural narratives, and future possibilities. This project interrogates precisely how meaning and politics are made in ordinary practices of seed planting, saving, and exchange. In analyzing how the cultural politics of seed agrobiodiversity operates in a specific region, I intend to show how meaning is made through biological forms. Turkey, a large agricultural economy, is currently wrestling with the effects of a recent seed law in the context of old and new forms of nationalism, accelerating migration, rising climate change, and political authoritarianism. In 2006, Turkey passed a seed law prohibiting the market sale of non-registered, traditional agricultural seeds. Defying the prohibition, farmers and activists have organized seed-exchange festivals and cooperatives. Meanwhile, scientists and officials have set out to identify and collect unregistered cultivars, which they see as national heritage, central to resilience in the face of climate change. This project posits that the meanings and political narratives that seeds carry are inseparable from practices of planting, storing, and exchanging—and from the materiality of the seeds themselves. Seen ethnographically, these practices confuse and confound given assumptions about different categories of seeds, the ways seeds connect people and environments, and the politics they generate.