Layla Bartheldi is a Ph.D. anthropology student at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague. She previously studied Czech literature and religious studies. In her doctoral research, she focuses on the current practices of the development aid industry in the agriculture field in Lebanon, specifically in the context of rising avocado production. Her research centers around the questions of neocolonial patterns, extractivism, and distribution of resources.
What can avocado production in Lebanon say about neocolonial influences and forms of global economical dependencies
In my ethnographical research, I focus on the role of development aid practices in shaping the Lebanese agriculture sector, with a primary focus on avocado production. I am mapping the networks of involved actors and observing their approaches and motivations, while also questioning whether the implemented projects can challenge the current hegemonic order or contribute to its reproduction.
Avocado functions as a tool connecting various actor networks beyond the development aid industry, encompassing spheres of global power relationships, international trade, environmental consequences, consumer behavior, and importantly, its symbolic role. Through the avocado, I explore how different types of economic and political dependencies, in which Lebanon is embedded, emerge in the promotion of avocado cultivation, and how these processes are experienced by the involved local people.
Hence, I am analyzing resources of international monetary organizations, conducting participant observation in local NGOs and at chosen farms, and I am speaking to representatives of local farmers, farm owners, merchants, project executors, and local activists. On a theoretical level, I am combining the basis of political ecology with post-development theories and questioning the options for decolonization of the development discourse and the whole paradigm.