Fringe Heroines: Situated Struggles of Women Scientists in Brazilian Agriculture
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Feminist scholarship regards the Western scientific revolution and twentieth-century agricultural modernization as patriarchal endeavors and technoscientific regimes as entangled in societal interests and politics. In this article, I engage with these perspectives by focusing on women scientists working in Brazil’s leading agricultural sciences organization, Embrapa. My analysis draws on life history interviews with three women, juxtaposing their personal and career trajectories with the history of the organization, which is a symbol of the triumph of science over nature. Besides filling the gaps in a male-dominated history, these women’s accounts reveal what I argue to be feminist struggles for more equitable and pluralistic agricultural sciences and practices. I refer to them as “fringe heroines” as they adopt research agendas that are at odds with the prevailing technoscientific paradigm and often find themselves subject to condescending attitudes and discrimination. These fringe heroines experienced a short-lived moment in the limelight during a period of progressive politics in Brazil. However, confronted by a less favorable context during the Bolsonaro era, they have taken a step back but have maintained their resolve to swim against the tide in their unyielding quest for justice and diversity with respect to agricultural knowledge production. The time is ripe for reflecting on the place of their situated struggles and knowledges in the past, present, and future of Brazilian agricultural sciences.