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4459 - Market Technologies and the Market as Technology: The Case of Small Producers in Guatemala

Ayora Diaz and Vargas Cetina observe that “technologies are devised to transform the relations among human beings and between human beings and their milieu.” Taking such a broad and ecumenical perspective allows us to look at the complex role technologies play in the ongoing construction of life projects. This paper looks at how new technologies are helping shape export agriculture markets among rural Maya farmers in highland Guatemala. Specifically I look at farmers growing broccoli and snow peas for export to the U.S., the growing number of smallholder producing coffee for the high-end global market, and maquiladora workers. These data show how technologies can act both to empower and constrain producers and workers. In doing so, I also present the market itself as a technology. Discussions of the market in development contexts often revolves around questions of “it” being either good or bad. Seeing the market as a contrivance, an apparatus, a technology, comes closer to Maya farmers’ own views. A market-as-technology perspective also allows us to document the complication and sometimes contradictory ways market forces touch down in particular times and places and the uses to which its mechanisms are put both by the powers that be and by subaltern subjects. I conclude by suggesting that seeing markets as technologies offers a productive framework for understanding individual agency, local social norms, and market articulations in the context of grassroots development.

Keywords: Guatemala, Maya, markets, technologies, development

Author: Fischer, Edward (Vanderbilt University, Ud States of Am / USA)

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