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Accepted Contribution:

"Because of one of us, we all lose": rule breaking or ethical contingency among Peruvian quinoa growers  

Contributor:

Corinna Howland (University of Cambridge)

Contribution short abstract:

I consider how particular ethics were contingently suspended in pursuit of a sale for organic quinoa growers in the Peruvian Andes. Suggesting a more complex engagement with organics regulations than outright 'rule breaking', I explore the shifting status of lying and honesty as moral practices.

Contribution long abstract:

Drawing on research among a quinoa-growing cooperative in the Peruvian Andes, I consider how particular ethics were contingently suspended in pursuit of the anticipated greater good of a successful sale to international exporters, which did not eventuate. Suggesting a more complex engagement with organic certification regulations than outright 'rule breaking', I explore the shifting status of lying and honesty as moral categories and practices for cooperative members, tracing how and when they became salient. The kinds of future possibilities cooperative members perceived, including 'productive' kinds of uncertainties which were foreclosed following a revelation of pesticide contamination, significantly informed their ethical orientations and actions in their shifting presents—namely, the two very different presents of before and after the collapse of the sale. The moral injunction not to lie was subject to different interpretations pre- and post-failure. Before the sale, a collusive and coordinated performance by the cooperative at an institutional level was considered a pragmatically permissible, logical, and almost admirable response to organic certification regulations, when the prospect of a future financial windfall loomed large. After the sale's collapse, lying became more morally problematic for the cooperative, when future prospects of making a good sale were bleak and members were searching for someone to blame. I will suggest that this shift in moral orientation indicatives a pragmatic or instrumental attunement to the future material 'opportunities' available to people in a given present, where ethical considerations (the 'ought') are inflected by the relationship between what is and what could be.

Panel Res09a
Good ends and dubious means: rule breaking and justification