In Rooting in a Useless Land, Chelsea Fisher examines the deep histories of environmental-justice conflicts in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. She draws on her innovative archaeological research in Yaxunah, an Indigenous Maya farming community dealing with land dispossession, but with a surprising twist: Yaxunah happens to be entangled with prestigious sustainable-development projects initiated by some of the most famous chefs in the world. Fisher contends that these sustainable-development initiatives inadvertently bolster the useless-land narrative—a colonial belief that Maya forests are empty wastelands—which has been driving Indigenous land dispossession and environmental injustice for centuries. Rooting in a Useless Land explores how archaeology, practiced within communities, can restore history and strengthen relationships built on contested ground.
Rooting in a Useless Land Ancient Farmers, Celebrity Chefs, and Environmental Justice in Yucatan
About the Book
Reviews"Rooting in a Useless Land is a provocation to anyone who studies sustainability to do better by thinking locally and long-term. Chelsea Fisher's accessible work carves out a new vision of environmental justice at the margins by juxtaposing the historical and everyday experiences of Maya cooks and farmers with those of famous chefs. Her seamless integration of insights from anthropology, archaeology, food studies, and environmental studies makes this book compelling to students, scholars, and foodies alike."—Amanda Logan, author of The Scarcity Slot: Excavating Histories of Food Security in Ghana
"A sensitive, beautifully written, and deeply insightful interrogation of centuries of agricultural practice, notions of sustainability, environmental justice, and archaeology itself among the Yucatecan Maya. With biting and refreshingly honest prose, Fisher brilliantly shows us that archaeology never happens in a vacuum. This book draws important connections between capitalism and neocolonialism while showing us how Maya people adeptly navigate a complicated world-system that seeks to paint their histories and present conditions in ways that are palatable to Western audiences looking for an exotic (but guilt-free) story. This interdisciplinary gem lays a blueprint for a new kind of archaeology that refuses to draw a line between the past and the present, in hopes of giving us a map to a better future."—Jason De Léon, author of The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail