09 May 2019

Performative technologies: agricultural research for development and gender

Technology is not gender-neutral and this paper shows how contemporary agricultural technologies participate not only in (re)constructing gender, but also in performing gender.

Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay and Elisabeth Prügl. 2019. Performative technologies: agricultural research for development and gender. International Feminist Journal of Politics.

The article draws on insights from feminist literature, science and technology studies (STS) and governmentality studies to explore how technologies introduced through agricultural research for development (ar4d) participate in performing gender. Drawing on gender audits of two international agricultural research institutions, we discuss the performativity of three types of technologies: material technologies intended to increase agricultural productivity, such as new seed varieties; social technologies, such as household surveys and evaluation techniques used to monitor projects; and political technologies, such as participation, deployed to enlist farmers in the adoption of productivity-enhancing material technologies. We show that all three technologies participate in performing gender as they are introduced into rural environments, sometimes in interaction with an “apparatus of gender” that emerges from gender mainstreaming. But performances are not uniform, producing both an iron cage of hierarchical gender dualism, but also enactments that exceed the vision of the apparatus, blur binaries and diffract the realities they project in unanticipated directions.