Year of Publication

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Lisa Cliggett

Abstract

This dissertation examines rural families responses to global and local situations that have made earning a livelihood as a farmer very difficult. Drawing from original research, including a household livelihood census of 195 households, interviews with 72 people, participant observation, and archival research, the dissertation explores how rural families have responded to declines in domestic agricultural markets fueled by global and national forces and local environmental change. It asks: what impact will small farming families responses to these forces of change have on peoples identities as peasants? I argue that while great change is underway in the countryside, peasant identity continues to flourish as people on the ground re-work and re-negotiate what it means to be a peasant. This research provides a voice to those often overlooked by macro-analyses of economic, political, or cultural development by providing rich ethnographic details on how global forces impact otherwise out-of-the way places. This dissertation critically examines what is meant by development and change, what development and change look like in a local, grounded context and what current trends can teach us about the future of rural areas both in Costa Rica and in other regions of the world experiencing similar phenomena: increasing educational opportunities for youth, a continued opening up of agricultural markets, a blurring of the line between the urban and the rural, and declining environmental quality.

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