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                  In the Fields of Free Trade
                                   Gender and Plurinational En/Countering
                                   ofNeoliberal Agricultural Policies

                                                               &:'unewt1rPeM'/
                                                                Nq;v}l;';f     -Ann
                                   Ann Kingsolver
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                       In the summer of 1993, when the North American Free Trade Agree­
                  ment (NAFTA) was being negotiated and Mexico's communal ejido lands
                  had just been pdvatized through constitutional changes pushed hy the
                  Salinas administration, I Diana stood in a row of cucumbers, looking down
                  the hill at the trickle of dver the drought had left running through her
                  community in rural Morelos. Her two youngest children were casting a net
                  in the river, trying to catch some fish. Her two eldest children were in
                  Canada doing contract work on a fann where they had gone for several sea­
                  sons. She and her hushand, Leonardo, now held a deed for their ejido plot;
                  the national administration had promoted this aspect of pdvatization so
                  that land held previously by communities for agdcultuml use could be sold
                  to corporations (for example, for the construction offactories). Leonardo
                  said that all that had come of this was the ahility of the government to tax
                  those holding property deeds for ejido lands, so the household's taxes had
                  increased fiftyfold in the past four years. They, like many other families,
          .<'
~..6:'   ......   had not paid their taxes because they did not have enough money. The
                  loans they and their neighbors had taken out to buy seeds and other agri­
                  cultural necessities had 20 percent interest rates, compounded monthly.
                  On the day that I talked with them,2 Diana and Leonardo were trying to
                  decide whether to harvest a crop of cucumbers or leave them in the field.


                                                                                         235
 ANN KINGSOLVER
                                                                                                                                        FIELDS OF FREE TRADE


 They had to go a long way to sell the crop, and hiring a truck and workers       subsidized farming in the United States taking an unfair share of their agri­
 to help pick the cucumbers would cost more than the cucumbers would             cultural market.
 bring in the market. Leaving them in the field made sense economically,              Diana and Dot's analyses of individual and community economic mar­
 but like so many other things under a neoliberal policy regime, it did not      ginalization through agricultural free trade policies resonated witl1 the
 make sense socially.                                                            interpretations of globalization that women and men shared with me. in
     That same summer, in eastern Kentucky in the United States, Dot was         interviews on upcountry tea estates in Sri Lanka in 2004. Saraswati and her
 also balancing the challenges of being a small-scale falmer, a mother, and      mother had lived and worked on a tea estate that had been nationalized
 a partner while making decisions on her tobacco and vegetable fannjointly       and then reprivatized. In this gender-segregated workforce in 2004, women
 with her husband, Tommy. Dot was working with a national organization,           tea workers earned 120 Sri Lankan rupees (approximately US$1.15) per
 "Farm Aid" (championed by singer Willie Nelson), and local agricultural         day for plucking tea leaves to be processed and sold in bulk to corporations
 organizations to lobby the US government against NAFTA. She said:               such as Lipton on the international market. Saraswati, sitting with her
        It's a national issue, but it's a local issue that we've taken to        infant, friends, and family members in the "lines" (company housing on
        heart. ... Farmers here-I don't want to say that they're not pay­         the estate), told me that I should share her analysis of globalization wi th
                                                                                  those who drank the tea that she and the other workers harvested: "If one
        ing attention to what's happening because they are aware of it,
        but it's that they're so caught up in survival, getting their crop in,   person speaks, nobody is concerned about it. If everybody says [some­
        getting on to the next step, that they really don't have time to be      thing], that is the real satisfaction-the communal voice. It makes a differ­
        active .... Local involvement was not what it should have been,          ence. This kind of issue should be taken to the international level, and
        considering [tobacco] is the primary income in this whole com­           people at the international level should be told that we are living in such a
                                                                                 situation. "3
        munity, but I don't think the total community has a clue what it
        could do to the economy here .... Our organization [Community                 In this chapter, I draw on long-term, multisited ethnographic research
                                                                                 I have been conducting for 20 years on local intelpretations of globaliza­
        Farm Alliance] started at the grassroots leveL .. We help each
                                                                                 tion and plurinational organizing to (a) consider the strategic use of dis­
        other from county to county. We, as farmers, in our organization
                                                                                 tinctions-for example, North-South, racialization, ethnicity, gender, class,
        basically are against everything that NAFTA stands for at this
        point.                                                                   caste, and age-in neoliberal capitalist logic and practice that isolates com­
                                                                                 munities of agricultural workers and promotes their further marginaliza­
     Dot went on to tell me that she, Tommy, and other farmers were fonn­        tion from decision making and the economic gains related to "free" market
 ing a collective to work out problems-similar to those experienced by           policies; and (b) discuss some analyses and strategies of those working to
 Diana and Leonardo--with marketing vegetables so that they could coor­          counter that isolation and strategic alterity.
 dinate who would grow cucumbers and who would grow tomatoes and how                  I am a Euro-American cultural anthropologist from rural Kentucky.
 they would get them to market. She had told someone at the land-grant           The methods I have used in studying interpretations of globalization have
 university to stop doing research for ConAgra and start doing research to       included semistructured interviewing and discourse, archival, and spatial
 help small farmers. In Morelos. Diana and Leonardo had also been work­          analyses. Participatory research has shaped my approach to ethnography.
ing with their community. They had helped build a dam and a bridge to            Some of my interviewing on NAFTA, for example, has been done collah­
address collectively their problems with access to water. Their local organi­    oratively with other activist researchers, from Mexico, and all of us­
zation was increasingly working together as the state became more a source       including those interviewed-have used the infonnation from tllOse con­
of tax bills than 9flarming assistance.                                          versations in our writing.
     Dot worried about NAFTA becaus~ she predicted that competitive                   Because, in this volume, we focus on those most economically margin­
tobacco produced' in Argentina would inter the North American market             alized by policies related to all the processes and actions tl1at get glossed as
through Mexico. Farmers like Diana, protesting at World Trade Organi­            "globalization," we shoulO be mindful ofJune Nash's (1997b:12) point that
zation (WTO) meetings 10 years later in Cancun, Mexico, worried about            ethnographic listening needs to be most attuned to those who have tl1e


23 6                                                                                                                                                        237
  ANN KINGSOLVER
                                                                                                                                          :FIELDS OF .FREE TRADE


    keenest analytical insights regarding global capitalism: those who have           South Korea, Turkey, Argentina, and the United States) to create a single
    experienced and resisted internal and transnational colonial domination.          product, a filtered cigarette, representing the labor of people in multiple
    Diana, and women like Saraswati who live even closer to the economic              countries. Studies of this process can be compared to other analyses of the
    edge under neoliberal regimes,4 are frequently the authors of theories and        "global factory." As Diana and Leonardo's children work on a farm in
   organizational strategies that challenge the way workforces are imagined in        Canada because their family needs to pay the taxes levied through neolib­
   debates and documents (like NAFTA) related to neoliberal free trade.               eral policies in Morelos, Mexico,5 they may be drinking tea produced
   Hence, a research question I see as central to the project of this volume was      through the efforts of Saraswati and her coworkers on the tea estate in Sri
   asked in the Second Encounter for Humanity Against Neoliberalism (held             Lanka. I have written elsewhere (Kingsolver 1991, 2007) about the ways in
   in Spain in 1997 as a follow-up to the First Encounter for Humanity Against        which ideological constructions of agricultural labor as independent "fam­
   Neoliberalism, organized by the Zapatistas in Chiapas): "What are the lived           farming"-as for Diana and Dot, though not Saraswati-obviate labor
   experiences of the contemporary neoliberal economic strategies--the face­          organizing among those sharing the lowest-paid and highest-risk work in
   less rule of markets, wars, cuts in social spending on essential services, pol­    multinational agricultural industries. It is Saraswati, in the opening exam­
   lution and devastation of our natural commons?" (De Angelis 1998: 138).            ple, who calls most directly for global organizing from her perspective as a
        One of our tasks as ethnographers is to document those "lived experi­         member of a transgenerational captive labor force. Free trade policies are
  ences" of neoliberal restructuring associated with economic "globaliza­             encountered and countered directly by agricultural workers around the
  tion." Another is to challenge the facelessness of those most central to the        world, then, and their labor is often organized in gendered workforces.
  imposition of those neoliberal capitalist policies. In the United States,                The word farmer, itself, may be gendered as male to some readers. As
  Mexico, and Sri Lanka, I interviewed men and women who were members                 many have wIltten, such gendered notions of agricultural workforces have
  ofneoliberal governments and whose occupations situated them in various             led to disastrous international economic-development policies based on
  ways relative to the "free" market, including as authors of free market poli­      erroneous assumptions regarding gender-assigned tasks related to plant­
  cies. I also interviewed those most marginalized by neoliberal economic             ing, harvesting, and marketing. Although I have not separated out gender
  policies. Along the way, I encountered women and men of various class              as a focus separate from its connection to racialization and other strategic
  positions organizing against and beyond neoliberal free trade policies. I          justifications for inequitable policies in my research on globalization, gen­
  consider the insights of Patricia Hill Collins (2000) and others vital in rec­     der has sometimes come up specifically in interviews. A retired plantation
  ognizing the ways in which class, caste, gender, and racialization, for exam­      manager in Sri Lanka, for example, volunteered his view that Sri Lankan
  ple, intersect and inform alliances and conflict~ of interest within national      men should be ashamed that women do the hard work of bringing inter­
 contexts of the globalized North and South, and not simply between them.            national capital to Sri Lanka through their low-wage work in the garment
 In this chapter, I include narratives by those most economically marginal­          sector, in the transnational domestic labor circuit, and on tea estates (Sri
 ized by capitalist globalization and by those working collaboratively across        Lanka's three main sources of foreign exchange capital). "It's sad," he told
 what might be seen to be different markers of identity or class interests, to       me. "We live on the backs of our women." Women and men's experiences
 design and implement specific alternatives to neoliberal free trade policies.       of "free market" capitalism need to be discussed relation ally, not in isola­
 I discuss the organizing strategies articulated by Bertha Lujan, a labor            tion (which is why the concern of this volume is gendered globalizations),
lawyer who has participated in transnational collaborative organizing                and analyses of gendered marginalization may, of course, come from men,
against neoliberal free trade policies through the umbrella organization             as in this manager's assessment, as well as from women.
Red Mexicana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC, or Mexican                        In the rest of this chapter, I address the two purposes of my argument
Action Network.a~inst Free Trade).                                                   mentioned earlier. First, I examine how the neoliberal capitalist strategy of
                                            V:
      I focus in this ch~pter on the agridj'ltural sector, which is also a multi­    isolating workforces with at least some shared experiences of economic
national industry.' Dot and Tommy well: producing burley tobacco, which              and cultural marginalization benefits most those central to the implemen­
was sold in a warehouse to a buyer from a transnational tobacco corpora­             tation of free trade policies. The first section discusses what happened at
tion that blends tobacco leaves produced in many nations (including                  the WTO meetings in Cancun, Mexico, in relation to the links and wedges


23 8                                                                                                                                                         239
     ANN KINGSOLVER                                                                                                                          FIELDS OF FREE TRADE


      between Dot and Diana as farmers in the globalized North and South,             is positioned within a much larger project of action and analysis of free
      respectively. The next section further problematizes the North-South dis­        trade policies affecting not only those working in the fields but also every­
      tinction by examining the words of Saraswati and other workers on the tea       one connected through the neoliberal project.
      estates, along with the words of the former president of Sri Lanka Chandrika         Barndt (1999) has argued, in a discussion of women and NAFfA, that
      Kumaratunga, and turns toward strategies of South-South organizing to           a focus on the agricultural sector and women's roles as pickers, packagers,
      contest historical North-South relations of infrastructural domination of       and consumers gives us a way to understand viscerally the globalized con­
      financial and transport aspects of global production, distribution, and con­    nections among those of us situated in many different countries and con­
      sumption networks. The final section closely examines the strategies of         texts. There can be very different ways of publicizing and addressing those
      Bertha Lujan and others working to craft and implement alternatives to          connections, and discussions of globalization (and transnational collab­
      neoliberal free trade policies in Latin America. I argue that lessons learned   oration and organizing) need to address communications. Of the three
      from gender-focused, transnational organizing efforts about power rela­         women I introduced in the opening part of this chapter, for example, Dot
      tions, voice, agency, and the intersections of not only racialized, classed,    had access to the Internet and eventually began marketing organic tobacco
      nation-based, and gendered aspects of identity but also those of shared and     to Europeans via that medium; Diana and Sara~wati did not have access to
      distinct concerns have shaped broad-based, transnational "umbrella" orga­       the Internet. However, Diana learned about policy changes and resource
      nizing strategies to contest neoliberal policies.                               availability through her agricultural collective-'.mmething Dot was just st:'lrt­
           This ethnographic project is informed by the analyses of Diana,            ing to form. Saraswati said that her union, the Ceylon Workers' Congress
     Saraswati, Dot, and Bertha as much as by those of the other theorists I cite     (CWe), did not represent her interests because the leadership was upper­
      here. Barry Carr (1996:210), in his chapter "Crossing Borders: Labor            caste and shared resources and information within closed family networks.
     Internationalism in the Era of NAFfA,» comments that although neoliber­          She felt that the working conditions of women on the tea estates were not
     alism has opened an unprecedented opportunity for grassroots activists to        covered thoroughly or accurately enough in local, national, or interna­
     organize across borders and make public statements on transnational pol­         tional media.
     icy, the trends in international organizing have been dominated by those              Grassi (1990) has argued the need for South-South participatory and
     in the North "helping" those in the South rather than recognizing exper­         interactive communications networks to challenge Northern domination
     tise in the South. At the 5th International Interdisciplinary Congress of        of global media. Internet sites have helped with transnational communica­
     Women in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 1993, I heard Digna Ribera, speaking as        tion and activism, including challenges to national governments. (For
     an indigena organizer from Costa Rica, say that she was rarely invited to        example, the Ejercito Zapatista para Liberacion Nacional [EZLN] devel­
     such congresses and that indigena voices should be included more often           oped both on-line and armed strategies to challenge the Mexican govern­
     in international discussions of inequality and the environment (rather           ment on the implementation of NAFfA in 1994.) Organizations like the
     than being, as she said, kept in parks) because of the knowledge they bring      R"1ALC have websites that-among other pmposes-give other organiza­
     to what amounts to f!lIeryone's problems: poverty, inequality, and what's hap­   tions models for writing alternative policy statements when it is time to
    pening to the world's resources. In her words, "We don't have water, we           move beyond critiquing state policy to proposing specific alternatives. It
    don't have rights to wood, but we have the right to pay taxes....We should        bears noting, however, that accessibility to the Internet continues to vary
    have more of an administrative role." In 2005, Costa Rican congresswoman          according to class politics, infrastructural, and organizational considera­
    Epsy Campbell, the first black woman elected to Costa Rica's legislature,         tions. The EZLN, for that reason, used multiple types of media and initi­
    was working froIl}, an administrative role in Costa Rica and in alliances         ated a public polling process to democratize its shift from a military to a
    across Latin ~ica to see that the voices of Latin Americans of Mrican 
           political organization in Mexico (Kingsolver 2001:176-179). Clark and
<   heritage-who repHlsertt the lowest l~tels of income and political repre­ 
        Themudo discuss some of the specific inequities within Internet-based anti­
    sentation (Campbell, personal comnufhication, 2005)-are heard more in 
           globalization organizing that they have heard voiced:
    national and international contexts (for example, at the current negotia­ 

                                                                                             Unequal familiarity with new technology and access to resources
    tions of the Central American Free Trade Agreement). This chapter, then, 

                                                                                             leads to a North-South tension. Many Southern activists see

    24 0                                                                                                                                                          241
ANN KINGSOLVER                                                                                                                    FIELDS OF FREE TRADE



       events such as Seattle and global social movements as very            (RMALC), with which I did ethnographic research in 1995 and which I
       Northern (or US) dominated (O'Brien et al. 2001), focusing pri­       have followed since.
       marily on issues of Northern concern (for example, the protec­             Ha:Joon Chang (2002) points out that the United States and European
       tion of the US environment, US jobs and US markets; US                nations became developed nations, in part, because of tariffs and protec­
       citizens wanting to have clear consciences about child labour;        tionism. It is ironic that these nations now lobby hardest for the liberaliza­
       and reducing pressures for illegal migration). They are angry         tion of other economies into a global free-trading market. With the
       that issues of concern to the South (such as the way in which         implementation of trade liberalization policies, growth in developing coun­
       agriculture is dealt with in wro talks) are not addressed. And        tries has declined (Chang 2002). The United States and the European
       events that are largely Southern organized (such as the citizens      Union (EU) do not fornl a neat bloc within the wro's discussions of agri­
       actions at the UN Conference on Trade aDd DeveIopment­                culture, nor do the G-22 nations, which represent collectively "two thirds of
       UNCTAD-meetings in Thailand in 2000 and the first World               the world's farmers and 60% of world agricultural output on five conti­
       Social Forum-WSF) attract very few Northerners. [Clark and            nents" (Johnson et al. 2003:42). Generally, the breakdown of the Cancun
       Themudo 2003:121-122]                                                 talks can be attributed to the unacceptable logic of nations (including the
                                                                             United States) wanting to perpetuate their own protectionist policies and
     North and South, as rubrics, cannot be too far reified because those
                                                                             simultaneously pushing for the opening of markets for their agl1cultural
governing the nations of the North and South have often been educated
                                                                             surpluses in G-22 and other nations. South Korean farmer Lee Kyoung-hae
together and the movement of people between the physical North and
                                                                             committed suicide at the barricades separating the negotiators from the
South challenges the notion of distinct publics in many ways. But we can
                                                                             protestors at the wro meetings in Cancun (Elliott and Denny 2003:21) to
think of nations as distinct policy spheres through which (at least some)
                                                                             demonstrate that removing the wro from setting agricultural policy
people move. Transnational networks, or meshworks (Harcourt 2003), are
                                                                             within nations was a life-and-death issue. His delegation wasjoined by thou­
"created out of the interlocking of heterogeneous and diverse elements
                                                                             sands of Mexican women and men who were feeling the dire effects of
brought together because of complementarity or common experiences"
                                                                             NAFTA and other neoliberal free trade policies in their fields and homes. 6
(2003:78) like the women's movement. One of the challenges of these
                                                                                  What has happened to faImers like Diana and Leonardo in Mexico since
meshworks is to discern the meaning of policy spheres, how to engage
                                                                             the passage ofNAFTA? The costs of agricultural production, along with food
them, and, when necessary, how to change them, especially because the
                                                                             in the market, have gone up, but the prices received for crops have gone
neoliberal shift in many states has represented a shift away from democra­
                                                                             down. For those and other reasons, more than 100,000 farmers in Mexico
tic involvement in policy making. The following sections take up the nar­
                                                                             marched to the Zocalo in Mexico City to protest agricultural policy
rative thread of those encountering and countering neoliberal economic
                                                                              (Hemispheric Social Alliance 2003:24). NAFfA is not the only transnational
policies associated with globalization.
                                                                             neoliberal policy alfecting Mexican agriculture; Mexico also has trade agree­
                                                                             ments with the European Union and with nations in Central America. How­
BRINGING THE FOCUS TO THE FIELDS: WHAT                                       ever, decades of neoliberal policies in Mexico have not countered poverty, as
HAPPENED AT THE WTO MEETINGS IN CANCUN?                                      had been promised. Agricultural trade liberalization in Mexico has increased
     In analyses of the breakdown of wro talks in Cancun, Mexico, in         both domestic poverty rates and food p11ces (Food First 2003a).7
September 2003, one current of discourse points to farmers of the North           The increasing poverty in rural areas of Mexico is mirrored in the
benefiting from state subsidies at the expense of farmers of the South.      United States, which calls into question the pitting of one set of small farm­
Such a narratiY~:1hasks the experiences common to small-scale farmers in     ers against another, as in the explanation that subsidies in the United States
the United States and Mexico, like D~t and Diana, despite their obvious      benefit small farmers like Dot and Tommy but hurt small farmers in
differences in m.edi~n income. That/ommon experience has been one            Mexico and other countries. US agricultural subsidies impoverish small­
reason for organizing piurinationally against free trade policies in such    scale farmers both in and outside the United States. Most of the agricul­
alliances as the Red Mexicana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio             tural subsidies are going to banks and corporations. The market share of



242                                                                                                                                                   243
  ANN KINGSOLVER
                                                                                                                                           FIELDS OF FREE TRADE


   grain has become much more concentrated in just a few corporations.                      We do not wish to be dictated to. We wish to be active partici­
   Cargill, ADM, and Zen Noh, for example, export 82 percent of US­                       pants in the process of formulating policy. Therefore the World
   produced com (Memarsadeghi and Patel 2003:3). Meanwhile, economic                      Trade Organisation and world trade agenda will have to be rene­
  conditions for most people in the United States have worsened. Since the                gotiated. The principles and underlying positions on trade must
  implementation of NAITA, approximately 700,000 jobs have been lost in                   definitely be the same for the developed and developing nations.
  the United States (Food First 2003b), and they have not gone to Mexico,                   We do not comprehend how rich nations demand of us to
  despite Ross Perot's predictions (Perot with Choate 1993). Following trade              abandon to the whims of the global markets vulnerable sectors
  liberalization in the US agricultural sector, Memarsadeghi and Patel                    of our society ... when they practice extensive protectionist poli­
  (2003) report that the number of family farmers has decreased, there has                cies for these sectors in their countries.
  been a whitening of the farm population, and malnutrition in the United                   We do not believe in the magic formulae that brandish brilliant
  States has increased. Just as capitalist class interests are allied across              statistics achieved by a privileged few while the majority of our
  national boundaries, so, too, are the class interests of those most margin­             peoples languish in the ignominy of poverty.
 alized culturally and economically by neoliberal restructuring. It is just that            The developed and powerful nations will have to realise there
 the capitalist class has better control of means of communication (literally             are millions of humans waiting on the sidelines to share the
 owning telephone companies and television stations now, after neoliberal                 fruits of development.
 privatization) and is more closely networked (as in the example of neolib­                 It is time for the rich and developed nations to give their tech­
 eral cabinet members in Mexico and the United States cooperating to pro­                 nology, knowledge, and financial assistance not only with the
 mote NAITA, having studied Milton Friedman's free market policies                        objective of securing contracts for their nationals, but also to
 together in graduate school).
                                                                                          alleviate poverty.
      What happened after representatives from Brazil, India, China, and
 other nations refused to allow the representatives from the United States         Her words resonated with those of many other national leaders challeng­
 and the EU to set what the former saw as a trade agenda with disastrous           ing the wro, the IMF, the World Bank, and the handful of nations who
 implications for farmers in the global South? Farmers like Diana and Dot,         maintain elite control of those transnational institutions. In South and
 and their coworkers, organized stronger "meshworks" across national con­          Central America, for example, several newly elected national leaders have
 texts to understand the ways in which wro policies to lower trade barriers        challenged the US-proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FfAA).8
have benefited large financial and agroindustrial corporations globally            Because their own nations may be debtor nations these days, national lead­
while seeming to pit small farmers against one another in a North-South            ers of the global North cannot as easily hold debt over the heads of state in
price war. The lived effects of free trade are by no means even across             the global South in their efforts to monopolize the trade agenda and ensure
commodity or geopolitical sectors; individuals have different organizing           the inequitable distribution of the profits of «free" trade. Increasingly, even
strategies according to specific sectoral interests. This is taken up in the 
     as one-ta-one free trade agreements (for example, a proposed free trade
section on the RMALC and focused organizing efforts countering free 
              agreement between Sri Lanka and the United States) are negotiated as
trade policies. 
                                                                  alternatives to the wro process, there are active South-South trade agree­
                                                                                   ments and trade areas intended to counter neoliberal infrastructural
                                                                                   inequities. Examples include the South Asian Association for Regional
SOUTH-SOUTH FREE TRADE: TWO WOMEN'S
                                                                                   Cooperation (SAARC) fornled in 1985 and the Association of Southeast
PERSPECTIVES FROM SRI LANKA
                                                                                   Asian Nations (ASEAN).
    An articleiil!!TJte Island (an Engli~.h-Ianguage, daily Sri Lankan news­
                                                                                       Ananya Mukhetjee Reed (1997) point~ out that regional cooperation
paper) on OctoberJ5, 2003, canied'pews of then president Chandrika
                                                                                   has been challenged by the need to compete as individual nations in the
Kumaratunga's spee~h at the World l:onomic Forum's East A~ia summit
                                                                                   global market, especially in textile production, but that collaboration has
in Singapore, after the breakdown of the wro talks in Cancun, Mexico.
                                                                                   been increasing. An interesting point of comparison, I think, between the
She said:
                                                                                   SAARC nations (India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh,

244
                                                                                                                                                                245
   ANN KINGSOLVER
                                                                                                                                           FIELDS OF FREE TRADE


    and the Maldives) and the signatory nations to the North American Free               I am arguing here that even as those participating in capitalist logic
    Trade Agreement and the contemplated Free Trade Area of the Americas, is        practice "strategic alterity," selectively "othering" specific groups at strate­
    that the SAARC decisions must be unanimous: no matter its size or income,       gic moments by gender, ethnicity, caste, national identity, religion, racial­
    a nation cannot (in SAARC rhetoric, anyway) be bullied out of its sover­        ization, age, or other markers of identity in order to justify their low-wage
    eignty, its territory, or its economic rights in trade discussions. The South   or non-wage position in the labor force,1J there are at the same time strate­
    Asia Free Trade Area, or SAFTA (negotiated by SAARC member nations),            gic alliances-across these noted differences-to address (sometimes lim­
   should be fully implemented by 2010. It will be useful to compare the inter­     ited) shared concerns. In the case of President Kumaratunga and Saraswati,
    national dynamics and the well-being of SAARC residents with those within        these are disarticulated. President Kumaratunga called for South-South
    the jmisdiction of NAFTA, which will be fully implemented in 2009.              organization on the state level from a podium, "streaming" immediately
         Both President Kumaratunga and Saraswati have expressed a stated           into global media, and Saraswati made her call for global organizing in an
   goal to address-immediately and seriously-the poverty experienced by             individual conversation connecting her to the readers of this chapter. They
   millions of women and men, globally and in Sri Lanka. Saraswati and              do not strategize together; in fact, Saraswati feels completely marginalized
   President Kumaratunga cannot, however, be characterized as having                from all political representation in the context of the Sri Lankan state,
   shared interests simply because they both reside in the global South, any        which she views as oppressive.
   more than Diana and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can be said                There have been many questions in transnational women's organizing
   to have shared interests because they both live in the global North.             about the possibility of, for example, challenging capitalist domination.
  Saraswati, for example, speaks Tamil and practices Hinduism. President            Some women participate in capitalist strategies even as they challenge them,
  Kumaratunga speaks Sinhala and English and practices Buddhism. 9 These            which might be said of President Kumaratunga's position in guiding eco­
  distinctions are relevant to the ways in which Saraswati was actively mar­        nomic decision making in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
  ginalized in the Sri Lankan national context before, during, and since            Saraswati has little participation, or say, in the marketplace. Yet they both
  President Kumaratunga's administration (which ended in 2005). Sinhala is          have called, in different venues, for an end to economic disparities, which
  the state language and Buddhism is the state religion. Saraswati is first mar­    are so often gendered. As Domitila Barrios de Chun!fMa pointed out to Betty
 ginalized, then, as a member of a state-marginalized ethnic group. She and         Friedan at the United Nations International Women's Year Tribunal in
 other Tamils living on the tea estates are then doubly marginalized by             Mexico City in 1975 (Barrios de Chungara with Viezzer 1978),just because
 Tamils from the north and east of the island, who do not share their fam­          they were both women did not mean that they had a full set of overlapping
 ily histories of coming from India to the central hill country of the former       concerns. Diana and Bertha, in the next section, have many differences­
 British colony of Ceylon as indentured workers.                                    like President Kumaratunga and Saraswati-and some similarities, including
       The Malaiyaha, or upcountry Indian Tamil, population has tended to           being Mexican residents interested in the lived effects of neoliberal policies
 be concentrated for generations on the estates. In fact, hundreds of thou­         in agriculture and other sectors of the economy. The RMALC example in
 sands of descendants of originally indentured plantation workers from              the next section demonstrates women's leadership and cross·dass, cross­
 India were left stateless-without national identities or passports-for half        sector organizing for empowernlent in the face of free trade policies.
 a century after Indian and Sri Lankan independence from British colonial                A consideration of the possibilities of such multivocal organizing can­
rule. President Kumaratunga's government only very recently granted citi­           not, of course, ignore the challenges to such collaboration presented by
zenship to the remaining stateless Tamils. Saraswati's family, then, is part        linguistic, class, ethnic, gender, racialized, and other powerful distinctions.
of the most marginalized Sri Lankan community (by cultural and national             Differences within and between North and South women's movements, [or
citizenship, e~icity, caste, language, and income), and President                   example, have been discussed by Hawkesworth (2006:121-145). Alvarez
Kumaratungais position is privileged! culturally, as well as politicalIy.lO         and others (2003) document divisions expressed among Latin American
These differences mediate powerfull/but do not completely negate, con­              and Caribbean feminist activists, and Macdonald (2003) specificallyana­
vergence in the two women's strategies to address economic marginality              lyzes exclusionary practices in transnational, anti-NAFTA social move­
related to glObalization.                                                           ments.


:<14 6                                                                                                                                                         :<147
  ANN KINGSOLVER
                                                                                                                                      FIELDS OF FREE TRADE


    ORGANIZING STRATEGIES OF THE RED MEXICANA DE                                  was proposed. These alternatives were more akin to the European Union's
   ACCION FRENTE AL LlBRE COMERCIO (RMALC)                                        attention to economic asymmetries among nations involved in transna­
        In April 1991, the first Trinational Trade Union meeting took place in    tional trade agreements, to the lights of migrant~, and to compensation for
   Chicago so that labor advocates could compare experiences and plan             those displaced from changing labor market~ as a result of neoliberal
   strategies across North America. Also that month, the RMALC was formed         restructuring.
   in Mexico. The RMALC is an umbrella organization that collectively facili­          The RMALC is an example of how national and plulinational cross­
   tates smaller, diverse organizations' crafting of a specific alternative to    class and cross-interest collaborations can be usefuL Agrarian, women's,
   NAFfA and other free trade policies. Around 100 organizations joined in       and other worker organizations, for example, had close understandings of
   the RMALC, including labor, environmental, women's, youth, rural, urban,      how neoliberal policies were affecting the most economically marginalized
   and human rights organizations. Diana's agricultural collective was con­       NAFTA public. Those understandings, coupled with the knowledge of the
   nected to the RMALC, along with many other rural and urban organiza­          juridical domain gained by those with more plivileged access, like Bertha
   tions across Mexico. In turn, representatives of the RMALC met with            Lujan, resulted in a broad set of analyses formulated into specific policies
   umbrella organizations from Canada and the United States, including the        countering the NAFTA document. Here are some examples.
  Action Canada Network, the Quebec Coalition on the Trilateral                        In 1993, the alternative to NAFTA written by RMALC representatives
   Negotiations, and the Mobilization for Development, Trade, Labor and          had, in the labor section, provisions that workers be included in deciding
  Environment to organize transnational responses to proposed free trade         policies that affected them; have rights to organize; have benefits that
  policies. In October 1991 in Zacatecas, Mexico, representatives of these       would be equal for workers in all signatory nations; and work in toxin-free
  org-anizations held, together, the International Forum on Public Opinion       environments. The proposal called for the equal protection of agricultural
  and the NAFTA Negotiations: Citizen Alternatives. The RMALC has been           and manufactuIing workers and the observance of protection for migrant
  involved in organizing a number of conferences bringing various con­           workers as already laid out in such agreements as the United Nations
  stituencies together-for example, workers for SONY from many different         Agreement on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their
  countries or labor union representatives from industries benefiting from       Families, signed in 1990.
 and losing out under neoliberal free trade policies.                                 The environmental section of the RMALC's proposed alternative to
       For Bertha Lujan, a labor la'wyer and representative of the Frente        NAFTA called for sustainable development, saying that environmental
 Autentico de Trabajadores (FAT), who became a leader in the RMALC               degradation and economic inequality do not foster sustainability. One of its
  (and later the comptroller of Mexico City when Cuauhtemoc Cardenas             principles was the "sovereign right of each nation to protect its own
 became mayor), one of the central roles of a flexible, issue-specific organi­   resources and the responsibility to avoid doing harm to the environment
 zation like the RMALC was to find legal instruments already signed by the       that affects other nations" (RMALC 1993:7). The proposal called for har­
 signatory nations negotiating free trade agreements and to try to hold          monization without uniformity in the environmental regulations attached
 those nations accountable to those existing policies. Examples of such a        to free trade agreements, specifying that one nation not become a toxic­
 policy would be the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human               waste dump for other signatory nations (that is, each nation would recycle
 Rights and Organization of Ameli can States agreements on immigrant             its own wastes). The specific legal framework, in the environmental section
workers' human rights. She felt that, case by case, lawyers and judges           as in the others, was elaborated in this RMALC document, as were specific
needed to be made more accountable for their interpretations of changes          proposals that groups of NGOs administer oversight of the proposed regu­
made in national Jabor laws accommodating neoliberal models. Hertha              lations.
Lujan argued f.<:!a very different kind of plulinational accountability than          The RMALC proposal on human lights and free trade called for the
the control or'the IMF, the wro, an~he World Bank. She told me, in an            ratification of the Organization of American States (OAS) and United
interview in 1995, mat the RMALC    vtJs     monitoring (in collaboration with   Nations agreement'! on human rights and acceptance of the rulings of the
other umbrella organizations) conditions after NAFTA and was continuing          Interamerican Human Rights Court, with a commission of NGOs to over­
to propose specific alternatives to it, as the RMALC had done when NAFTA         see the human rights of migrant workers.


24 8                                                                                                                                                     249
ANN KINGSOLVER                                                                                                                           FIELDS OF FREE TRADE



      As noted by Manisha Desai (2002:15), women's transnational solidarity         edged officially a role for civil society in the negotiations. The RMALC web­
 networks have played important roles in working to counter the North to            site includes links to gender-based organizations contesting free trade poli­
 South flow (or return, as we could see it through the lens of dependency           cies. Those organizations, and their reports. mostly focus on the
 theory) of ideas and resources: "At these {transnational organizing] sites,        privatization of water supplies across Latin America, which is a community­
 the flow of ideas and activism is no longer unidirectional, from the North         based issue of concern to women and men in many contexts. 12 In Bolivia,
 to the South, but multidirectional. The ideas and activism are dispersed           an organized public stood up to the privatization of the water supply, but
into varied local sites where they are picked up and refashioned as they res­       the continuing pressure through free trade instruments and organizations
 onate in contextualized ways." The RMALC has been accounting for varia­            is tremendous and the counterpressure must be toO. 13 While neoliberal
 tions in local contexts as its members work toward economic and social             policies are ongoing in their proposals and implementations, the FTAA is
 harmonization through specific policies. Although the organization began           another point of convergence for umbrella organizations within which
in response to NAFTA proposals, it has continued to respond to free trade           constituencies countering free trade policies have some overlapping goals,
policies such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Free                 induding bringing attention to-and addressing-free marketeers' agency
Trade Area of the Americas. Strategic collaborative concerns have been              in compounding the economic marginalization of those construed as "oth­
worked out in person in various conferences and through the RMALC                   ers" in neoliberal capitalist logic. Daysi Granados, for example, is a
website.                                                                            Nicaraguan farmer who has stood up with others in her community against
     Bertha Lujan wrote a chapter called "Citizen Advocacy Networks and             the water privatization that corporations are trying to force on Nicaraguans
the NAFTA" for a book titled Cross-Border Dialo{!;ues (Brooks and Fox 2002).         (even though there are national laws against water privatization). She and
She notes the positive dynamics associated with globalization, not only the         her colleagues have found support and advice for their effort'! via the
negative ones, including "the growing interrelation between grassroots, cit­        Internet from activists who successfully countered water privatization
izen, and political organizations" (Lujan 2002:212) to "promote citizens'           attempts in Bolivia (Granados, personal communication, 2005).
rights over capital" (2002:215). She document'! disagreement'! that arose
between labor groups within and between each nation in forging consen­              CONCLUSION
sus on an alternative to NAFTA and describes the differences in national                 Women like Diana, Dot, Saraswati, and Bertha have brought expertise
priorities among transnational NGO solidarity networks (with US groups              learned about the challenges of organizing across many kinds of political
tending to prioritize environmental concerns, for example, and Mexican              and identity borders to the current moment of crafting alternatives to
groups seeing workers' compensation and the human right'! of migrants as            neoliberal global capitalist policies (in and beyond the agricultural sector).
top goals). She also notes that Canadian and Mexican NGO alliances criti­           The RMALC is an example of a solidarity network that brings women's,
cal of neoliberal free trade policies agreed with each other in opposing            environmental, human rights, urban, rural, and labor interests to the table
NAFTA but disagreed over whether alternatives should be proposed. (The              with transnational counterparts to negotiate-through very specific policy
Canadian groups did not join the RMALC in going forward with alterna­               proposals-a long-term bottom line of social and environmental well-being
tive free trade proposals.) In 1996, the Canadian Labour Congress hosted            as an alternative, in global accounting, to neoliberal national administra­
a conference with the trinational alliance organizations, called "Challen­          tions' attention to a tenuous, short-term economic bottom line. Those
ging Free Trade in the Americas: Elaborating Common Responses" (Lujan               working in agricultural sectors, as in all economic sectors, are affected
2002:223). As Lujan (2002:225) observes, the trinational alliance of hun­           unevenly by neoliberal restructuring, but the RMALC and other organiza­
dreds of NGOs has held together beyond its initial purpose of opposing              tions are working to identify those issues and policies that can be supported
NAFTA to con."t:!flue with a critique of the proposed FTAA, even as each            strategically across interest groups.
national alliarice focuses it'! goals in a+:Jressing policy at the national leveL        Because plurinational alliances of NGOs have become significant
     The RMALC ~ontinues to co~st free trade policies, and Foster                   venues for not only critique but also action in relation to national and
(2005:215) argues that because of the countering ofNAFTA by the R\1ALC              international policies, events, and practices glossed as globalization, I
and allied movements, governments negotiating the FTAA have acknowl-                believe that it is important to recognize and document the histories of


25 0
 ANN KINGSOLVER                                                                                                                        FIELDS OF FREE TRADE



  each of those organizations and to see what lessons they bring to joint orga­   IeIing the fifth meeting of the W"TO in Cancun, Mexico, in September
  nizing efforts. Lessons learned about multivocality and intersectionality       2003. The Internet site of the RMALC (http://www.rmalc.org.mx) includes
  through women's transnational organizing now inform those involved in           a declaration of the Alianza Social Continental (Continental Social Alli­
  umbrella organizing seeking alternatives to free trade policies that focus      ance) on the results of the WTO meetings, a descIiption of El Foro de los
  on gender-based inequities in relation to other configurations of inequity.     Pueblos as "an alternative space created by and for Civil Society," and other
  The RMALC, for example, is not a women's organization, but women par­           documents related to ongoing plurinational efforts key to moving beyond
  ticipate in positions of leadership and have crafted policies that resonate     simply protesting to evaluating and proposing alternatives to neoliberal
  with public welfare goals and strategies of the plurinational women's move­     state policies.
  ment. Ximena Bedregal Saez (1992), in a history of the Mexican women's               As Friedman (2003:314) notes, "the transnational women's rights move­
  movement, states that the holding of the International Women's Year             ment substantially changed the framework for understanding global
  Conference (beginning the UN Decade for Women) in Mexico City in                issues." One of those legacies is the increasingly public struggle between a
  1975 catalyzed widespread organizing efforts among Mexican women dur­           neoliberal, free-market agenda and a social bottom line, as seen in the out­
  ing that next decade, with a focus on linking gender and class concerns. I      come of the 2004 national elections in India. Documenting the specific
 suggest that this history, along with intersections with the labor movement,     contributions of differing organizing histories, including gender-related
 provided a discourse that has facilitated the very effective work of the         ones, to plurinational activist alliances is important as these bodies chal­
 RMALC in articulating alternatives to neoliberal trade policies. 14              lenge neoliberal states and propose more inclusive alternative policies. The
      Valentine Moghadam (1999) argues that globalization has increased           call to organize globally made by Saraswati resonates with the actions of
 women's participation in the low-wage labor force, as well as the interna­       Dot, Diana, Bertha, and many others, through strategic alliances in and
 tional trade in ideas about feminism and neoliberalism, and that this is an      beyond the agricultural sector.
 interesting moment for seeing how these factors come together in the                   In conclusion, I am arguing here that one of the contributions of
 union of women's interests across class lines. This was certainly evident in      decades of women's transnational organizing to current, broader-based
 a 1995 gathering ofwomen and men in Mexico City organized through the             efforts to analyze and contest the marginalizing effects of free trade policies
 FAT (Authentic Workers' Front) and the RMALC, in which the conditions             is the insight that interests need not be completely convergent for strategic
 for workers (many of them women) around the Pacific Rim were analyzed             alliances to be effective. President ChandIika Kumaratunga, for example,
 critically in the context of neoliberal policies. The convergence of plurina­     contests marginality within the W"TO yet participates in Saraswati's cultural
 tional activists in Seattle during the 1999 WTO talks exposed many activists      and economic marginalization. This seeming paradox is explained well by
 in the United States for the first time to long-term discourses critical of       Patricia Hill Collins' (2000) concept of the matrix of domination, through
 neoliberal policies and established transnational, trans-class, and trans­        which domination, subjugation, and resistance are intertwined, negating,
 interest organizing strategies. Staudt, Rai, and Parpart (2001) commented         for example, totalizing assumptions of shared interest by gender. I agree
 on that moment of convergent interests in "empowerment" and the need               with Shirin Rai (2002) that a "politics of engagement" with globalization
 for more sustained, cross-context policy efforts, going beyond protests.           processes-a transformative politics recognizing the differences between
 Activists in the Canadian National Action Committee (NAC) on the Status            activists-is both possible and necessary. We have learned through discus­
 of Women have made the same obseIvation (Cohen et al. 2002).                       sions of multiply situated viewpoints, as well as the organizing efforts of
      Such initiatives have been occurring. In August 2001, for example, in         women like Digna Ribera and Bertha Lujan, that strategic actions do not
 Mexico City, 270 representatives of social groups from 39 countries met to         have to involve complete concordance.Just as global capitalist organization
form an allianc,Q!to counter neoliberal globalization and promote social            and processes can rely on strategic alliances between capitalists who mayor
justice (Globa1"Exch;mge 2001); a ser¥s of forums, often paralleling meet­          may not know one another, strategic contestation of global capitalist prac­
ings of nationalgowrnments and re~ed transnational entities such as the             tices-and the inequities associated with them--can be enacted by dis­
WTO and the International Monetary Fund, was planned at that time.                  parately positioned individuals.
Another initiative was EI Foro de los Pueblos (the People's' Forum) paral­


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25 2
ANN KINGSOLVER                                                                                                                                             FIELDS OF FREE TRADE



      About the Author                                                                              12. See BaUve 2005, Olivera with Lewis 2004, and Shiva 2002.
      Ann Kingsolver, associate professor of anthropology at the University of South                13. Bechtel and a Dutch corporate partner have sued the Boli\1an government
Carolina, has been interviewing men and women about their \1ews on globalization              for $25 million in lost profits after the efforts of many organized women and men in
since 1986 in the United States, Mexico, and, most recently, Sri Lanka. She wrote             Bolivia were successful in stopping the privatization of public water supplies that was
NAFTA Stories: Fears and Hopes in Mexico and the United States (200]) and edited More         attached to debt renegotiation by the IMF, the World Bank, and the Interamerican
Than Class: Studying PIYWCT in US Workplaces (]998). She is general editor of the             Development Bank in 1988 (Women's Committee, Hemispheric Social Alliance
Anthropology oj Work Review.                                                                  2004:7-B).
                                                                                                   14. The collaboration of the RMALC with other umbrella organizations transna­
                                                                                              tionally builds on earlier transnational organizing efforts, begun long before NAFTA
      Notes                                                                                   negotiations, for example, the transnational monitoring and publicizing of conditions
      1. Article 27 of Mexico's constitution was amended to allow for the privatization       in the maquiladoras, factories in export processing zones in Mexico, documented by
of ejido lands.                                                                               the Border Committee of Women Workers (2004).
      2. The full context of the interviews with Diana and Leonardo (pseudonyms)
may be found in Kingsolver 2001:96-99. The names Dot, Tommy, and Saraswati in this
chapter are also pseudonyms.
      3. B. Sasikumar translated between Saraswati's Tamil and my English in this inter­
view. My fieldwork on globalization in Sri Lanka was supported by a 2004 Fulbright
Lecture/Research Award.
     4. John Gledhill (1995) observes that the economic problems in the ejido sector
in Mexico are not solely due to neoliberal policies, but those policies are the focus of
this chapter.
      5. See Barron 1999 for a discussion of Mexican agricultural workers in a
Canadian context.
    6. See Biswajit Dhar and Sudeshna Dey 2002 for an excellent discussion of the
WTO Agreement on Agriculture and the contestation bern,-een nations of the global
North and South over food security issues.
      7. Marc Edelman (2004) discusses famine across Central America as a direct
result of trade liberalization in the agricultural sector. In Mexico, Olivia Acuna
Rodarte (2003:130) states that since the implementation of free trade policies, approx­
imately 300,000 corn farmers have lost their livelihoods.
      8. Itty Abraham's (2005) discussion of increasing counter-hegemonic organizing
between Latin American and Asian acti\1sts is relevant to this section.
    9. See Jayawardena 2002 for a discussion of President Kumaratunga's elite family
position, in terms of social and economic capital, in Sri Lanka.
      10..For more on the history, working conditions, and citizenship status of estate
Tamils in Sri Lanka, see Daniel 1996, Hollup 1994, and Sinnathamby 2004.
      11. The ilui5J.ity of the category marked as "other" for purposes of inequitable dis­
tribution of res-ourceshas been well docu~nted by Brodkin (1998:63), Harrison
(1995), and Omi an4lcWinant (1994), am~g others. See Kingsolver 2001,2007 for fur­
ther discussion of "strategic alterity."




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