Maywa Montenegro is Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and was previously a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis. Dr. Montenegro is a social scientist who has published extensively on topics including agroecology, food sovereignty, gene editing, seeds, and data—including in the pages of UC Press’s open-access journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, where she recently joined the editorial team as Associate Editor in Editor-in-Chief Alastair Iles’ Sustainability Transitions knowledge domain.
UC Press: Welcome to Elementa!
MM: Thanks! I’m pleased to join the editorial team.
UC Press: Of course this is not your first experience with Elementa—you have been responsible for multiple articles in the journal, including as guest editor (and author) of the highly-cited Special Feature Gene Editing the Food System. How has your author experience been with the journal? What led you to join the editorial team?
MM: I was first attracted to Elementa by the transdisciplinary focus of the Sustainability Transitions domain—much of my work crosses social and ecological fields—as well as the journal’s attractive interface with art, photography, and multimedia content. Storytelling is an important and sometimes neglected part of mobilizing social change, and I appreciate the journal supporting ways to tell stories in ways that speak to many different communities, audiences, and parts of our own selves.
I joined the editorial team out of an interest in expanding the horizons of anticolonial science publishing. Collections like Agrobiodiversity Nourishes Us / La agrobiodiversidad nos nutre and Ways of Knowing and Being for Agroecology Transitions (forthcoming) have offered invaluable opportunities to gather scholars and practitioners across continents who are committed to participatory-action, engaged, and community-based research; who prioritize non-extractive and remunerative work; and who implement data sharing and authorship agreements that recognize the expertises and labors of diverse contributors. In this vein, Elementa’s capacity to publish text bilingually is an important part of anticolonial science, as is the voucher program that makes Open Access affordable for authors who prioritize non-paywalled publishing but who cannot afford the steep APCs of many journals.
UC Press: What is it that spurred your research interest in seeds and agrobiodiversity?
“I see seeds as both microcosms and catalysts of worldmaking: they are linchpins in the political economy of global industrial agriculture; they are living beings whose genes coevolve with language, territory, and Indigenous and peasant farmer expertise; they are sites of intensive scientific R&D, intellectual property, and monopoly power.”
MM: I’ve been fascinated by seeds and agrobiodiversity for as long as I can remember, having been raised by a father from Andean Peru, where Indigenous relatives count more than 4,000 different kinds of potato varieties growing in the mountainous landscapes. My research interests were spurred after reading Gary Paul Nabhan’s book Where Our Food Comes From about the Soviet scientist, Nikolai Vavilov, who theorized global centers of origin and diversity; Judith Carney’s Black Rice; Keith Aoki’s Seed Wars, and Jack R. Kloppenburg’s First the Seed: the Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology. I did my PhD thesis on the history and political ecology of seeds, and later completed a postdoc where I looked critically at CRISPR/Cas gene editing of crops. I see seeds as both microcosms and catalysts of worldmaking: they are linchpins in the political economy of global industrial agriculture; they are living beings whose genes coevolve with language, territory, and Indigenous and peasant farmer expertise; they are sites of intensive scientific R&D, intellectual property, and monopoly power. Going back to my earlier point about anticolonial practice, seeds have long been carriers of memory, culture, and material sites of resistance to state and corporate efforts to dominate, oppress, and erase Native and peasant communities. As they say, they tried to bury us, but they forgot: we are seeds.
UC Press: Are there any particular articles or collections publishing soon in Elementa that we should keep an eye out for? Do you have any advice for researchers who may be considering submitting articles to Elementa’s Sustainability Transitions knowledge domain?
MM: I’m currently working with colleagues on a special feature called Ways of Knowing and Being for Agroecology Transitions. We received a huge number (nearly 90) of proposals for this feature. While it was hard to turn many terrific papers away, it was also encouraging to see so much interest in the topic of knowledge, power, and how evidence is constructed socially for imagining food futures. What does agroecology evidence look like and who decides? How do people mobilize evidence and to what effect? What are the priority areas for transformative research and action agenda?
I’m thrilled to be thinking through questions like these in collaboration with author teams from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, North America, and Europe. Keep an eye out for research papers on topics ranging from critical, feminist approaches in US extension science to power dynamics in Malawi’s food systems to the evolution of agroecology in Mexico. We’ll also be publishing several grassroots commentaries and photoessays, which cracks open the range of evidence we encourage folks to consider as scientifically legitimate.
Authors interested in submitting to Elementa’s Sustainability Transitions domain should browse a cross-section of article types among both standalone articles and special feature papers. Many authors don’t realize until after they’ve submitted their manuscripts that Elementa publishes many different articles types. Policy Bridge and Practice Bridge articles, for example, can be great options for authors interested in applied methodological and policy dimensions of scholarship. Browsing the special features page is also a good idea, as many of these features remain open for rolling submissions, and authors might find that their article is a strong fit for a collection.
UC Press: Thank you for your many contributions to Elementa, and best wishes for your term as associate editor!
MM: You are welcome! I’m looking forward to our collaborations.
Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene is a trans-disciplinary, open-access journal committed to the facilitation of collaborative, peer-reviewed research. With the ultimate objective of accelerating scientific solutions to the challenges presented by this era of human impact, it is uniquely structured into distinct knowledge domains, and gives authors the opportunity to publish in one or multiple domains, helping them to present their research and commentary to interested readers from disciplines related to their own.