Sustainability 2014, 6(5), 2802-2821; doi:10.3390/su6052802
Article

Trading in Discursive Commodities: Biofuel Brokers’ Roles in Perpetuating the Jatropha Hype in Indonesia

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Received: 3 December 2013; in revised form: 24 April 2014 / Accepted: 25 April 2014 / Published: 13 May 2014
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Abstract: Hypes about wonder crops raise critical questions about the actors and mechanisms that link optimistic narratives about the crops’ potentials to actual production in the field. Jatropha curcas has been such a wonder crop, with a wide discrepancy between plans and reality. While many studies focus on agronomic or technological explanations of discrepancy and how to decrease it, much less is known about the influence of specific actors on creating a gap between high expectations and actual production in the field. This paper highlights the role of commercial brokers, who link potential investors and their capital to land and labor in the production areas. How have such commercial brokers contributed to perpetuating the optimism regarding the potentials of Jatropha plantations? The article presents the results of ethnographic research in a case study of commercial biofuel brokers at work in Sumba, one of the marginal areas in Indonesia targeted by policy makers for Jatropha cultivation. The study indicates that these actors have assembled their own short-term projects, translated narratives about future potential activities into the objects of trade in the present and produced optimistic figures about their projects to attract investors. In the conclusion, the paper warns against the unintended effects of green biofuel policies and discourses, when the latter get translated into a business opportunity for short-term private benefits instead of for the social and environmental goals for which the policies were originally intended.
Keywords: Jatropha; commercial brokers; Indonesia; biofuel policies; discursive commodities; land grabbing
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MDPI and ACS Style

Vel, J. Trading in Discursive Commodities: Biofuel Brokers’ Roles in Perpetuating the Jatropha Hype in Indonesia. Sustainability 2014, 6, 2802-2821.

AMA Style

Vel J. Trading in Discursive Commodities: Biofuel Brokers’ Roles in Perpetuating the Jatropha Hype in Indonesia. Sustainability. 2014; 6(5):2802-2821.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Vel, Jacqueline. 2014. "Trading in Discursive Commodities: Biofuel Brokers’ Roles in Perpetuating the Jatropha Hype in Indonesia." Sustainability 6, no. 5: 2802-2821.


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