Accepted Paper:

Truth and truth-telling: The contours of public deliberation in the agricultural biotechnology debate in India  


Natasha Koshy (Syracuse University)

Paper long abstract:

The debate on agricultural biotechnology has largely been characterised in the literature as being polarised between the "triumph narrative" (Stone, 2012) of biotechnology and the "hazy romanticism" (Irwin, 1995) of the so-called neo-Luddites. This seeming polarisation has been made possible in part by the obscuring of the term agricultural biotechnology, which has lent itself to many interpretations and significations. Drawing from academic literature, publicly available government and private reports as well as popular media accounts, I argue that pro and anti biotechnology groups in India often employ similar language and appeal to similar sentiments and principles, but to different and contradictory ends in the public meaning making process. Further, I examine the manner in which regimes of truth(s) about agricultural bio-technology in India have been discursively constituted in keeping with perceived public interests to privilege particular characterisations of the term and consequently some discourses of agricultural biotechnology over others. Unravelling how some narratives gain prominence over others requires however, that we turn towards the politics of their production: who are the truth-tellers, what do they say, and how do they try to speak the loudest? And what does this mean for transformative public deliberation?

Panel C2
Solidarity and plurality: Dimensions of 'the public' in scientific engagement