Culture & Agriculture

a section of the American Anthropological Association

Month: April 2017

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?


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

Land grabbing in Ethiopia

This amazing collaborative map of perennial farms




Co-Editor Search

Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment, the twice-yearly, peer-reviewed journal of Culture and Agriculture (a Section of the American Anthropological Association), is looking for a new co-editor, to begin in January 2018.

CAFE features culturally and anthropologically-relevant analyses of human dimensions of environment, ecology, agriculture, food production, aquaculture, fisheries, forestry, natural resources, energy, water, sustainability, and biodiversity. CAFE publishes peer-reviewed material as well as editorially reviewed commentary and reports, discussions of theoretical developments and methods of inquiry, results of empirical research, and book and film reviews. CAFE encourages dialogue among scholars, activists, and practitioners.

Recent submissions have ranged in topic from theories of farmer knowledge and performance, to multispecies ethnographic examination of human/plant relationships, to the sustainability of sturgeon farming. CAFE has as one of its aims to make anthropological perspectives available to an interdisciplinary readership of researchers, practitioners, and activists working on agricultural and environmental issues. Though anthropology is our base and specialty, readers and authors may come from fields that include sociology, agricultural economics, food studies, policy sciences, and diverse branches of farming and natural resources management. The journal receives submissions from across the globe, and is available to institutions in low-income countries through philanthropic grants.

The new co-editor will serve a four-year, staggered rotation, and help CAFE ensure its future sustainability and relevance in the changing environment of scholarly publishing of the 21st century. The position is volunteer, but financial support for attending AAA annual meetings is typically available. Institutional affiliation is helpful but not required.

CAFE Co-Editor Job Description

The new co-editor will officially begin January 1, 2018 for a four-year term, but will ideally be incorporated into editorial discussions in fall 2017 if possible. The co-editors work on a staggered rotation, sharing duties and providing continuity across editorial transitions. The position is volunteer, but financial support for attending AAA annual meetings is typically available.

Along with other AAA journals, the journal is digital-only, with paper versions provided to subscribers for an extra fee. The AAA has recently negotiated a new contract with Wiley Publishing, which will include access to the online journal management platform, Scholar One. The incoming co-editor will:

  • Provide vision and oversight to journal content and directions
  • Collaborate with co-editor, editorial advisory board, and section members to ensure financial and scholarly sustainability.
  • Share duties with co-editor of all phases of article submission, review, and publication
  • Work with co-editor to implement Scholar One for submission management
  • Provide editorial review, judgment, oversight, and copy-editing to journal submissions and issues as necessary
  • Stay abreast of current trends and issues in anthropology related to the journal’s key thematic areas
  • Initiate and solicit proposals for timely and relevant themed issues
  • Work with C&A Executive Board on journal budgeting and planning
  • Serve on the C&A Executive Board, with responsibilities for providing annual reports to the C&A Board and membership on journal progress, challenges, statistics, budget issues, and other matters
  • Provide annual and other reports to, and communicate and collaborate with, the American Anthropological Association’s Publications Department
  • Serve as liaison between Culture and Agriculture Executive Board and the AAA Publishing Department
  • Cultivate, maintain, and work with an Editorial Advisory Board to locate peer reviewers, provide guidance to journal content and directions, and problem-solve
  • Help recruit, supervise, and collaborate with student assistants, technical consultants, and the C&A website team.
  • Strategize on methods and media for publicizing the journal to increase readership.

Experience with electronic publishing and institutional support are welcome, but not required. Editorial effort is year-round and constant. CAFE is published twice yearly (June and December), and it publishes all final articles online via Early View when they are ready.

To apply, submit a cv and letters of interest addressing your interest, vision, and qualifications for the above responsibilities to Nick Kawa, C&A President at [email protected] no later than May 31, 2017. Additional questions about the position may be directed to the current co-editors, Brandi Janssen and Stephanie Paladino at [email protected].


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