Tory Brykalski

Doctoral Candidate, AnthropologyUniversity of California / Davis

Award Information

2016 IDRF Program

AnthropologyUniversity of California / Davis

Cultivating Life: Agricultural Labor in Lebanon's Syrian Refugee Crisis

This research project examines the practices of agricultural labor in Lebanon today. Through ethnographic fieldwork in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Lebanon's largest agricultural region, it traces the logics produced by colonial and post-colonial development discourses, the scientific evidence produced by agricultural researchers, and the labor practices of Syrian refugee agricultural laborers. While Syrian migrant labor as been the dominant form of agricultural labor since the 1960s, recent flows of refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War have caused the number of Syrians employed in Lebanon's agricultural sector to multiply. Recent anthropological work at the interface with science and technology studies examines the ways that agricultural labor is both exploitative and productive, configuring how humans relate to their living landscapes, shaping what kinds of lives are possible, and influencing local and global food chains. I extend these questions to ask how Syrian refugees fleeing war engage in agricultural labor. Lebanon's agricultural sector today is marked by drought, contaminated lands and waters, and decreased production. The objective of this project is to examine how labor practices, by caring for these lands and waters, open up new ways of living within these conditions.