Fools Gold on the Prairies

Ontologies, Farmers and their Seeds

  • Birgit Müller École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris
Keywords: seeds, intellectual property rights, ontological turn, prairie farmers


The "ontological turn" in anthropology is linked to the insight that environmental thinking requires reflecting on conflicting ways of "being and becoming in the world". This article explores how large-scale industrial farmers engage with the world, their ontic relationship with seeds, their direct reconnection to reality and sensorial perception of the non-human. However, seeds not only become what they are in multifarious networks of natural, cultural and political agencies, but their emergence and co-evolution with humans is ruptured through deregistration, persecution, confiscation and destruction. Proprietary industrial seed varieties carry instrumental rationality and control into the fields of Canadian farmers that are hard to resist.

Author Biography

Birgit Müller, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris

Birgit Müller (PhD Cambridge 1986) anthropologist research director at the IIAC-LAIOS, CNRS in Paris, explores global governance of food and agriculture at the FAO and agricultural practices in Canada and Nicaragua. She examines worldviews and power in relation to seeds and soils. Among her books: Disenchantment with Market Economics. East Germans and Western Capitalism (2008), The Gloss of Harmony. The politics of policy making in multilateral organisations (2013).

How to Cite
Müller, Birgit. 2015. “Fools Gold on the Prairies: Ontologies, Farmers and Their Seeds”. Swiss Journal of Sociocultural Anthropology 20 (May):61-73.