Sacred Rice: An Ethnography of Identity, Environment, and Development in Rural West Africa
(Oxford University Press, 2015) is a book about change. The Jola, a people living in Guinea-Bissau, have long cultivated rice and formed their social identity around its growth, but recent changes in climate, economic, political and social circumstances have rendered this a precarious existence. As a result, individuals from the village where Prof. Joanna Davidson
has spent years conducting in-depth ethnographic fieldwork have been forced to integrate not just the outside world, but changes in their own society. How these changes have affected them and how they have dealt with them, along with what this means in terms of our thinking about development theory and social change in general, form the major theme of this excellently researched book that tells us about the history of rice in Africa, West Africa generally and about a village in particular.
We’ll talk to her about how she found the village where she did her work, how she became interested in the topic, what the Jola as a people are like, the changes they are experiencing as well as what we might learn about the Jola and even ourselves.
Jeffrey Bristol is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at Boston University and a JD candidate at the University of Michigan Law School.