This ambitious volume examines the complex histories of rice in the early modern and modern periods. Rice is not only a plant but also a crop, a commodity, and a food, and the fifteen essays in the volume trace patterns of rice cultivation and consumption throughout much of the world. More specifically, the book explores what Francesca Bray calls the “local-global articulations” (4) of the political, economic, cultural, scientific, environmental, and biological forces that have shaped rice and its roles in society. This rich and wide-ranging analysis reflects the diverse scholarly backgrounds of the volume's contributors, whose areas of study range from East and Southeast Asia to Africa and the Americas.

In the introduction, Bray frames the varied histories of rice with two distinct historical debates. The first debate centers on the involution thesis in East and Southeast Asia, based on...

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