Caring for the Pan: The Collaborative, Multi-­layered and Temporal Dynamics of Agricultural Knowledge among War-Khasi Farmers

  • Éva Rozália Hölzle (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


War-Khasis, who live in Bangladesh, earn their subsistence from the production of pan (betel leaf), which is cultivated in the forest. By exploring the betel leaf cultivation practices of War-Khasi farmers, the types of knowledge they mobilise to grow betel leaf successfully, and how they acquire these forms of knowledge, this ethnographic study draws attention to the collaborative, multi-­layered and temporal dynamics of agricultural knowledge. Betel cultivation, far from being an independent human enterprise, is a collaborative and relational effort involving multiple species. The War-Khasi word sumar, meaning to cultivate and to take care, exemplifies the relational aspects of farming through multispecies collaboration. Although pan can grow naturally in the forest, cultivating betel necessitates the mastering and mobilisation of complex agricultural knowledge, as well as physical dexterity. Throughout the life of a farmer, such knowledge forms are in constant flux. The intergenerational transmission of agricultural knowledge, the adjustment of knowledge to the seasons and changing circumstances, the revision of knowledge as life experiences accumulate, and the transformation of the self during the effort to become a good farmer reveal movements of knowledge with different temporalities.


Bangladesh, Northeast Indian borderlands, War-Khasi, pan, betel leaf, betel cultivation, care, agricultural knowledge, knowledge transmission