Anthropologie autour des semences potagères

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Anthropologie autour des semences potagères

Hi, I’m Lara, I am a PhD student in anthropolgy, I’m working on producing a doctoral thesis (in french) in social anthropology more specifically, on our relationship with vegetables seeds. I’m looking into whether they play a key part on Human Society. But to complete my research, I need your support !

So this is the story of a thesis which aspired to be written.

Which is the fruit of seven years of ethnography studies, which began in Licence (Undergraduate School).

Full of ethnographies because it’s a thesis of anthropology.

Although we aren’t yet in the unbreathable world of Nausicaa, I hope that my thesis will interest a bit more people than in “Same Old Song” (“On connaît la chanson”), It is indeed this video controversial topics which gave life to my investigations. A quick wink to actor Benoît Poolevorde, in the movie “Romantics Anonymous” (“Les émotifs anonymes”): I am as anguished as the character you were playing.

ONGs, peasants, lobbies, states, conservatories... how do we perceive and interact with vegetables seeds in France? This is the object of this research in social anthropology, but which vegetables seeds are we talking about? How practices differences generate different politicies? How to access the seeds?


Seeds are often cited as present or future stakes. Therefore, it is important to get involved into choices for their conservation and reproduction. To do this, we must understand the diversity of human organizations, issues and systems. This research enables us to understand this universe, to take better ownership of it : it's not a matter about simply observing, but rather, revealing the mechanisms of our societies, the daily and individual practices that took us there. Because, in order to understand seeds accessibility, circulation and diffusion we must first understand the practices, relationships and human liberties.



The wealth of this thesis is the focus on different practices and ideologies in order to link them each other and understand their actual mechanisms. It is because everything has as much importance into this ecosystem: hallways discussions, social innovations through plants, globalization of rules, choices of planted seeds, botanical species involved....Concretely, how does a peasant chooses his seeds? How does The Government Ministry write and apply legislations? How is it decided that a plant variety becomes illegal? Which seeds are chosen for conservation? Why is it that some prefer refrigeration, banks, planted fields, or networks? All these choices affect our daily lives and our food.



Here, no need for proof through numbers, we all know that we are losing our biodiversity at a crazy pace. The objective of this thesis is not to convince but rather, to bring a deep knowledge that allows everyone to make their own opinion.



It is a work of research, performed on the ground, based on 7 years of ethnography during whichmany people opened-up to me their farms, communities, institutions, conservatories, laboratories...



My results will enable us, concretely and humanely, to realize how seeds are an everyday tool in our society.

Whenever possible, the thesis (in french) write-up will be done in such a way that everyone understands its content and makes use of it. The more open is the knowledge, the more people will be able to choose which direction our world is heading.



Indeed, the political and societal aspects are at the heart of this work I also realized that our perception of the vegetal has a direct impact on our relationships to the world, living beings, Indeed, the political and societal aspects are at the heart of this work. I also realized that our perception of the vegetal has a direct impact on our relationships to the world, living beings, and therefore, on our perception of what a democracy should look like. For this reason, this thesis also deals with plants intelligence, the sensitive part of our relationship with the vegetal, and how it can move political lines.




Social Anthropology: How should I introduce my discipline?


Anthropology is a Human and Social Science which strives to understand the meaning we give to our world. The methodology is inductive (inspired from an on-the-ground approach, inherently non-deductive). To do that, I did field studies, which meant participative observations of the practices (ethnography).



I spent a relatively long time (from a week to many months, sometimes many years) with people who were kind enough to share time and live their seeding practices with them.


These practices exhibited so many different aspects: from the legal text drafting to the actual planting, from cryogenic conservation to open-field conservation, from the creation of a working legal group to the creation of an involved community. They are all so different, but enabled us, together, to analyze, from the sociological and anthropological points of view, the flaws, unbalances and wealth of this universe.



Now this research needs to be written-up, it needs your boosting help!! Become acting players by funding it!


What motivated this thesis?


At first, the subject:


Very few researches in Human and Social sciences are about, « cultivated seeds». And from those researches I noticed two established facts:


1) The first one is that they are about either, species of “large-scale cultures” (cereals, wheat, corn…), or about practices related to medicinal plants.


2) The second one is that they are only about a single group (for example farmers, industrial agriculture, co-ops, etc. ) .


To me, it seemed very important to carry-out my research analysis across all seeds, not excluding any agricultural group, but focusing it, more specifically, on vegetable seeds species (found in garden plots, on farmer markets, such as tomatoes, squash, beans, etc.).From there, I took an interest on all entities gravitating around them: farmers, seed company managers, but also gardeners, public servants of the Agricultural Ministry, GEVES/CTPS (French acronym for Permanent Technical Selection Committee), public research centers, associative or public conservatories, farmer associations for selection, seeds producers, etc.), the list goes on and on.


Whether amateurs or professionals, bureaucrats or farmers, I took interest into all who kindly welcomed my vegetable-centered research. It was a long and laborious task.

Next, the location:


My research took place mainly in France. Why? Because it is a country that I think needs to be analyzed, with respect to the seeds sector. France takes pride into being the world first seeds exporter, and fourth seeds producer. It is enough to trigger a researcher’s interest. Moreover, the country has a very well organized lobby in this area. It also has extensively federated, political counterweight organizations. In short, it is a country very rich in controversies, debates and reflections on these topics. Hence, it seemed evident to me to concentrate on France, although I pursued a number of studies in England, focusing in democratic stakes on seeds.

To whom?


I sincerely hope that my thesis will shed some transparency on a complex sector, and sometimes caricatured. It seems to me that, in order to take part of our food future, understanding this environment, in terms of human inter-relations, organizations is almost a necessity. It is not a matter of depicting the structures, but rather, the relationships between them and humans. It is not a matter of depicting or observing facts, but rather analyzing their interactions or non-interactions. These impact our agricultural and food production governance.



This thesis approach will be neither exhaustive nor representative. The write-up will aim at raising questions, providing food for thought, dwelling on precise and specific points. These are Anthropology typical characteristics: being interested in particularities without producing generalities and enhancing them in a meaningful and reflexive way.


As mentioned before, I wish to write my thesis (in french) in the most accessible manner, introducing theoretical topics into a more down-to-earth narrative style (as much as I can do in a context of a thesis). My goal is to provide a better understanding and pleasant reading (as much as reading a thesis is pleasant).

And it is not an easy task : between the University Academics conformism, sometimes, and the social violence of the datas, often, finding the good articulation between the form and substance become a true social issue.

From that, how to be as accurate and as useful at the same time?




The thesis manuscript should be completed in 2020, followed by substantial research work and content discussions with my thesis advisor. Finally, the Doctoral Dissertation Defense will happen a few months later.



Waar dient de collecte voor

So far, this thesis has received no funding!

Only one thing is missing: financing the last leg of the research work.


Some Ph.D. student benefit from public and/or private financing from their research laboratory(even industry or associations scholarships), I don’t. So I really need your help to complete this research write-up! It is actually more than a full-time job.


If the fund-raising goal is reached, I should be able to work non-stop for 5 months, on the manuscript, thereby completing my thesis!


The overheads on your participation will be about 15% of the collected funds.


- 8 % fee to Kisskiss Bankbank

- About 7 % to purchase items or materials for participant donation rewards.


This fund-raising will enable the completion of the last stage of my thesis elaboration (finish the write-up) and represents, on the entire span of my doctoral graduate studies, only 12% of the total budget the thesis research working time cost me.


In case the fund-raising goes beyond 4000 Euros (about 3350 GBP or 4450 USD), it would help me to include more data (field notes and recordings) in the write-up, as I need additional time to analyze some of them.



Notes on Rewards



If you were personally involved into this research, you will automatically receive a digital ver-sion of the thesis, and an invitation to the doctoral dissertation thesis presentation. Ultimately, the manuscript should be available to all in digital format.

The Seed Packets: They are supplied by Seed Co-opérative, a collective organization, working for a better world, through seeds, of course!


It consists of a flower pollinator insect-attractor seeds mix: sunflower, borage, lupine, buck-wheat, phacelia, Alexandrian clover, Persian clover, summer vetch, ornithope, motherwort, dill, Mauritanian mauve.


The seeds are organic, biodynamic and open-pollinisated, for more information or to order seeds, visit

The printing paper: Because we have to take care of our forests, the printing paper is hand-made, 100% recycled and comes from family business Maki, France. The notebooks have a 325 gr textured cover and 100gr white pages. For more information, visit or


Illustration Drawings: Phylum and Victor Tissot are two artists trained at The Emile Cohl School (France) who helped and created these beautiful drawings to personalize notebooks, cards and packets!

Art Stamps: They have been hand engraved by Nula de Noolibirds!


Project Contributing Artists: Thanks to Phylum, Victor Tissot, Paul Raillard and Mehdi Clere, the STOK company and the Aksiphylaxie Channel for all the artistic work done voluntarily in support of this research!

Thank you very much for the translation to Jean-Louis Balint and Ludovic Rampon.




Notes on rewards delivery:


Deadline delivery is 12 months, except for the invitation to the Dissertation Presentation, which cannot be yet specified. If you wish to receive notebooks and/or cards quickly, or in a particular color, it's possible, just send me an e-mail.


Contacts & Links:


My background & experience are shown in the picture above! If you want more information, con-tact me:


Lara Elfjiva


You can also find the fund-raising web page video here: Phylum Univers



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