Culture & Agriculture

a section of the American Anthropological Association

Notes from the Field: On the Mentor-Mentee Relationship as Critical Anthropological Praxis

James H. McDonald
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, University of Montevallo, Alabama, United States
[email protected]

As C&A continues to evolve dynamically as an organization within the AAA, we are incredibly privileged as applied anthropologists, educators, and agents of change to be able to help steward future generations as they grow as scholar-practitioners. Indeed, this may be the most critical thing we can do to produce and reproduce the organization with highly talented, innovative, and vibrant new members.

Kathryn Kozaitis (2013, 2000) argues that a critical dimension of an applied anthropology occurs within our roles in the teaching-learning process. She identifies two important dimensions of praxis that occur. First, she notes that the act of teaching and learning in the classroom leads to new form of knowledge as students creatively combine and recombine classroom-based knowledge with their own knowledge and experience. In terms of sheer scale and ability to help students shape and animate their intellectual firepower, our work in classrooms (and beyond) may arguably be our greatest contribution to the field and society in general (Kozaitis 2000). Second, she argues that, all neoliberal effects and implications aside, that deep community engagement forms another dimension of praxis through research, instruction, and service as we partner to promote social justice-oriented initiatives (Kozaitis 2013). Both these dimensions of praxis frame the teaching-learning dynamic as a form of social activism (Koziatis 2000:51).

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Notes from the Field

For the 2017-2018 academic year, C&A are proud to be revamping and relaunching the “Notes from the Field” section. The series of articles will be published on the C&A website and in our Section News for the AAA online AnthroNews column and it will be included in the AAA News weekly emails sent out by the Association. The column is a great forum for C&A members to share thoughts and test drive ideas on fieldwork-related topics through more accessible writing aimed at a wider audience. Contributions are welcome from all C&A members and should be 800-1,200 words long. We encourage accessible reflections on one of the following themes:

– The joys of fieldwork
– New (or old) methods that may be particularly relevant to research that is at times literally in a field
– The non-visual sensorium of fieldwork–i.e., the sounds, smells, and tastes of research
– Ethnography as a unique mode of knowledge production
– Ethical dilemmas and how you navigated them in or after the field
– Please also feel free to suggest your own theme–and perhaps some other contributors!

If you are interested in submitting a contribution, please email [email protected] with “Notes from the Field” in the subject line and our editors will be in touch with more details.

Read the latest issue for free!

Following up on the release of our latest issue of the CAFE journal, Culture & Agriculture is happy to announce that it will be available free to all for the next 2-3 months.

Tell your friends!

We are thrilled to share with you the newest issue of Culture, Agriculture, Food, & Environment (CAFE) (vol. 39, no. 1).
This issue features five original research articles, two research reports, and two book reviews:

Introduction
Actor Networks, Celebrity Farmers, Identity Performance, and Super Star Crops
// Brandi Janssen and Stephanie Paladino

Anthropologists are well aware of the blurred boundaries between what is local and global and the complex ways that identity, performance, knowledge, and practice intersect to inform both angles of view. These relationships are particularly evident in networks and systems of agriculture and food production. This issue of CAFE considers how locals respond to, are affected by, and empower themselves in relation to global markets and international development initiatives through their identities, relationships with the plants they cultivate, and the realities of climate change, labor needs, and social and economic inequality.

Articles
The Journey of an Ancestral Seed: The Case of the Lupino Paisano Food Network in Cotopaxi, Ecuador
//Alexandra Martínez‐Flores, Guido Ruivenkamp and Joost Jongerden

Race, Status, and Biodiversity: The Social Climbing of Quinoa
// Deborah Andrews

“Show Farmers”: Transformation and Performance in Telangana, India
// Andrew Flachs

Losing Labor: Coffee, Migration, and Economic Change in Veracruz, Mexico
// David Griffith, Patricia Zamudio Grave, Rosalba Cortés Viveros, Jerónimo Cabrera Cabrera

The Fate of an Old Water System in the New Era of Climate Change and Market Imperatives in Southwest China
// Ann Maxwell Hill and Kelin Zhuang

Research Reports
A Typology for Investigating the Effects of Sturgeon Aquaculture on Conservation Goals
// Richard Apostle

The Story of Tapyo: The Alkaline Salt Substitute of the Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh, India
// Rashmirekha Sarma

Book Reviews
Aesop’s Anthropology: A Multispecies Approach
// Reviewed by Deborah Andrews

Cultural Heritage and the Challenge of Sustainability
// Reviewed by Murray J. Leaf

Weekly Gleaning 6/2: Rational Agriculture

Our weekly gleanings present the latest happenings, research and writing along the tangled banks of culture and agriculture.

In 1998 Alfred Gell gave his opinion on what anthropology does best:

Anthropology is, to put it bluntly, considered good at provided close-grained analysis of apparently irrational behavior, performances, utterances, etc

Some have questioned farmer support for Donald Trump as such “apparently irrational” behavior, particularly in light of proposed budget cuts to the USDA, potential loss of agricultural labor and antagonism towards climate change measures. There is a certain smugness here, that these irrational people are getting what they deserve for making such an obviously wrong decision, against their own self-interest. Perhaps we need more close-grained analysis from anthropologists doing what they “do best”.

Since almost all behavior is, from somebody’s point of view, ‘apparently irrational’ anthropology has, possibly, a secure future

Secretary of Ag Sonny Perdue defends the re-organization (read: demotion?) of rural development within the USDA and the budget proposal

The National Sustainable Agriculture weighs in on the budget and withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement

A new documentary film from FarmAid unravels the 80s farm crisis

Remembering Sydney Mintz

Cacao ceremonies in San Francisco

Exploring the Plantationocene in Malaysia and Indonesia

Weekly Gleaning 5/19: Rural America is a colony

Our weekly gleanings present the latest happenings, research and writing along the tangled banks of culture and agriculture. This week – Wendell Berry, autonomous barley and shifts in the USDA.

“Rural America is a colony, and its economy is a colonial economy,” Wendell Berry writes in his response to an essay that forwards Joan Didion’s new South and West. Berry defends Rural America against those who have been explaining rural political inclinations as primarily a product of nostalgia.

The business of America has been largely and without apology the plundering of rural America, from which everything of value—minerals, timber, farm animals, farm crops, and “labor”—has been taken at the lowest possible price.

Maybe the colonial narrative is as guilty of reductionism as the nostalgia narrative – but at least it moves the conversation away from a weakness of rural character to the demonstrable effects of economic policies and practices.

“My goal to be American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world.” New secretary of ag Sonny Perdue creates a new undersecretary position for agricultural trade, in effect displacing rural development to a lower priority.

Autonomous barley planting, cultivation and harvesting.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture safe, for now, by virtue of a governor’s veto.

Colony collapse of honeybees is all over the news, but even more worrying are indications that total insect biomass has also been falling at alarming rates.

New research on the role of unconscious selection in the first human crop domestications.

The world’s largest indoor farm under construction in Camden, New Jersey.

Listen to a podcast on ginkgo-human entanglement throughout history.

Weekly Gleaning 5/4: The meaning of work

Our weekly gleanings present the latest happenings, research and writing along the tangled banks of culture and agriculture. 

Food workers rally on May Day

The latest episode of the Our Land short films features farms of the Catholic Workers Alliance

The Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog makes a good point about word choice

UK food systems post-Brexit

New article about wild rice and Ojibwe food sovereignty

Trailer for Golden Genes: The Movie, about gene and seed banks – “What does it mean to be part of nature in the age of the genome?”

Weekly Gleaning 4/27: Rural Prosperity

Our weekly gleanings present the latest happenings, research and writing along the tangled banks of culture and agriculture. This week: the new executive order, walnut histories and wild foraging labeling 

What Wealth Is – Rebecca Gayle Howell

When you eat the same food as your livestock, your animals, the beasts
you rear from teat to trough—rear up for tender, the cut—
when you chew in your mouth what you dump into theirs
when you know their bodies are not today separate from your body,
the noise-making heat, green flies all around,
when the garden yard is stopped short by its wall of corn, its room of corn,
tall as any useful man, tall as money’s gate,
you know: your hand, rising up and opening, is the devil to which all this prays
and in your dream you walk in past the gate, into the corn,
taller than you, into its room, and it’s dark here, the husk ceiling
its own shallow, unlit, selfish sun, and at your feet the path narrows into a limit
that makes the leaves for a moment look like the ocean folding in on itself or the church
women praising with their palm fans, the church women who knew once
what to do, and so you put your god hand up and open to touch the fronds
thinking they will know what to do, and they are sharp as the stained blade your daddy
carried, sharp as the cut, and your blood hand is bleeding now, your face,
bleeding, and you close your eyes and walk because isn’t this the way out?

This week saw the confirmation of Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Ag and an executive order from the White House on Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America. “Food is a noble thing to trade”, Perdue declared at the hearing.

Meanwhile, the US is losing its dominance in agricultural exports. The Iowa senate and house voted on Tuesday to cut funding to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. The prairie that Aldo Leopold loved so dearly is breaking. What is wealth?

Elsewhere

The Southern Foodways Alliance has been collecting the oral histories of Helvetia, West Virginia. Population fifty-nine.

A remarkable history of the walnut and its entanglements with the Silk Road. Why have investigations into the origins of agriculture mostly ignored tree crops?

“Fairwild” labeling and schisandra berry harvesting in China

Analytics of indigenous Hawaiian agricultural systems

ICARDA’s seed bank in Syria is still holding on

Weekly Gleaning 4/20: Higher Agriculture

Our weekly gleanings present the latest happenings, research and writing along the tangled banks of culture and agriculture. This week: ant farmers, re-peasantization and cannibalism 

This week’s gleaning is not inspired by certain recreational practices associated with today’s date (but check out a short ethnographic film from Sapiens on marijuana tourism in Morocco). Instead it reflects on the first development of “higher forms” (read: complex, large scale) of agricultural production, not by humans in Neolithic Mesopotamia, but by leaf-cutter ants moving into dryland environments 30 million years ago. A study in last week’s Proceedings of the Royal Society reports that the “world’s first sustainable, industrial-scale agriculture began when crops became dependent on their ant farmers. The way we talk about fungus farming by ants is often colored by the way we think about human farming. Why would we call ant farming industrial? The authors distinguish the agricultural behavior of these ants from the “lower, primitive forms of ant agriculture”, where fungus species are not fully domesticated.

Conventional distinctions between peasant and industrial forms of human agriculture often feature similar descriptors. Rita Calvario has a new article out in the Journal of Peasant Studies following re-peasantization movements in the Basque territory that subvert modernization narratives of agricultural progress. Why do we see high and low agriculture as more-than-human universals? How could more-than-human perspectives of ant agriculture in turn subvert contemporary concepts of food sovereignty?

Farmer Fair Practice implementation delayed 180 days

A new USDA agricultural census season

Grape genetic resources in the Holy Land

The cannibalism taboo

Greek legislation allowing farmers to purchase state-owned land

Weekly Gleaning 4/11: Human food webs

Our weekly gleanings present the latest happenings, research and writing along the tangled banks of culture and agriculture. This week: Pueblo food webs, budget cuts and hacked tractors

In most diagrams of ecosystem food webs, humans are conspicuously absent – hovering somewhere above the page, unbound from the cycles of predation. This makes a recent paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science reconstructing Ancestral Puebloan foodwebs so welcome, for the way it emphasizes the complex entanglements between humans, plants and animals. Questions about the role of humans in their ecosystems are also explored in a recent article on Mongolian reindeer herders and local conservation practices.

As modern agriculture has tended to disembed farmers from their agroecosystems and entangle them in non-local webs of markets and technology, this domination of the nonhuman world has not necessarily been experienced by farmers as empowering. Often it has been the opposite. See recent publications on the farm crisis in Kansas, rural suicide, the asymmetry of the so called ‘ag boom’ and the predicted impacts of Trump’s USDA budget cuts.

Coming full circle, North American farmers are now even being disembedded from their most intimate technological relationships. The ongoing saga over the right to repair’ their John Deere tractors continues to develop, with farmers beginning to hack their tractors with Ukrainian firmware (also check out the good folks at Farm Hack).

Glenn Stone and Dominic Glover on the disembeddedness of Golden Rice and multiple rice worlds in the Philippines

My Adventures with the American Diet, a series by Chunyan Song at Ethnography.com

Land grabbing in Ethiopia

This amazing collaborative map of perennial farms

 

 

 

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