Peasants, Merchants, & Politicians in Tobacco Production
Based on intensive fieldwork among the different social groups in the Ilocos region, this book offers an insight into the Ilokano social ensemble following the process of tobacco production from seed to threshed leaves. The author examines how different local groups relate to each other and with the outside world. Virginia tobacco is centerpiece in a story that brings together merchants, politicians, and peasants. The constant tensions that an engagement with a cash crop brings to the society also bring the hope - at least during the tobacco season - of escaping poverty and exploitation.
It is through tobacco that Ilokano peasants enter into dealing with mestizo politicians and Chinese merchants to become part of the global economy. Departing from traditional peasant studies, Professor Torres also conducts fieldwork among merchants' and politicians' households to provide alternative viewpoints on the complex interaction among groups.
The author argues that antrhopologists, when dealing with an agrarian society, must consider a whole range of social groups besides the peasantry, in order to better understand the articulation between peasant production and a capitalist economic system. In the book each social group is treated as a unit of analysis; each has interests and goals its members seek to realize with Virginia tobacco earnings.