Jennifer S. Bowles
- Doctoral Candidate
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
“Hands on the Green Leaf” is a political ethnography and phenomenological account of the harvesters and farmers who produce yerba mate, the naturally bitter green tea which is consumed in most Argentine households. Based on fieldwork conducted over six years in the hinterlands of Northeast Argentina, it analyzes labor rights, morality, and sentiment in everyday culture in fields where mate is hand-harvested each year by multiethnic crews of wage workers called tareferos. In focusing on the production site instead of consumption, it captures a view of the first temporal, material, corporal, and affective spaces of the commodity chain from which twenty-first century agrarian alienation springs. A collaborative politics of memory and recognition runs throughout, demonstrating how ongoing social stigma toward wage workers might be assuaged. Finally, this dissertation argues that the interests of producers and wage workers must be considered together in order to counter agrarian crisis and rural exodus.