EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W019)

Crisis, environmental anthropology, and the garden: local resilience, sustainable living and alternative food production

Location Arts Classhall E
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Katy Fox (Aberdeen University) email
James Veteto (University of North Texas) email
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Long Abstract

Providing a platform for researchers working in the areas of bioregionalism and permaculture principles of living, we want to investigate grassroots practices that explicitly go against the mainstream. We are interested in exploring both their imaginative potential as well as problematic or contradictory aspects. Permaculture is a global grassroots development philosophy and sustainability movement that encompasses a set of ethical principles and design guidelines/techniques for creating sustainable, permanent culture and agriculture. Bioregionalism proposes that economic activities should be constrained by ecological boundaries rather than arbitrary political divisions. It proposes a re-grounding of culture and community within particular watersheds and biotic communities. We do not limit our areas of interest to ecovillages that often explicitly incorporate principles of bioregionalism and permaculture, but encourage comparison with peasant livelihoods and sites of alternative food production as traditional applications of ecological principles in practice. How do these grassroots and movements and practices differ from dominant practices in how autonomy, growth, control, possibility, hope and crisis are re-imagined and practised?

Finally, we want to investigate the consequences of practice-oriented research for an environmental epistemology in anthropology. What is the potential of an anthropological public engagement with these grassroots movements? How can we expand our knowledge on sustainability in ways that complement and enable us to extend our traditional areas of theoretical and practical expertise? What are the consequences of real engagement with practice-oriented research for anthropology in theory, practice and dissemination?

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Hope, autopoiesis and permaculture in Romania and the UK

Author: Katy Fox (Aberdeen University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper draws on comparative research conducted in Romania with people who choose to lead a 'peasant way of life' and with budding permaculture designers and activists who were also involved in the Transition Towns initiative in the UK. I focus especially on how these two groups re-imagine hope and crisis in their everyday practices, and how this contrasts with other 'environmentalist' practices, outlining the key differences and commonalities between the everyday practices of both groups. I consider the implications of real engagement with practice-oriented research for anthropology in theory, practice and dissemination. Kenrick's (2009: 52) 'commons thinking' approach assumes that we live in a common-life world upon which we all depend, that problems stem from a breakdown in relationships and that solutions are primarily about restoring these relationships. I propose the concepts of hope and autopoiesis as a way to change anthropological knowledge formation regarding desirable practical change.

Sweating for sustainability: resilience through diversity on Latvian eco-health farms

Author: Guntra Aistara (Central European University)  email
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Long Abstract

An extraordinary exception to the misery caused in Latvia by the financial crisis has been Latvia's Eco-health farm network, which seeks to integrate agro-ecology, rural tourism, and community environmental education. The most striking example is their re-imagining of the traditional Latvian pirts (steam sauna) rituals to incorporate contemporary knowledge of medicinal herbs and alternative medicine practices. Farms offer visitors herbal sauna treatments and medicinal teas in addition to nutritious home-grown organic meals. This paper will explore their innovate strategies for resilience and bring these practices into dialogue with farmer's views of pemaculture principles. Through their care for the biological diversity of Latvia's meadows, Eco-health farms have been creating economic diversity for their livelihood strategies to complement organic food production. These farms offer a compelling model of solidarity and eco-imagination in the post-Soviet, EU countryside, and offer valuable insights for other communities seeking to design their farms for sustainability and resilience.

"Mother Earth nourishes us": the development of an alternative farmer's market in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Author: Kristine Skarbo (University of Georgia)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper tells the story of a new and thriving Sunday morning market in a rural town of Northern Highland Ecuador. The fair's history is short, turbulent, and successful, and, although played out in a southern setting, has much in common with farmers' markets born in the global north during the last decade. Cotacachi is a small town surrounded by a stunning patchwork of agricultural fields covering the slopes of dormant volcanoes. This region is not a mono-cultured desert dominated by supermarket provisioning; many families grow much of their own food, and it is more common to buy food through small stores and bustling markets. Still, people crowd to "la feria comunitaria", to purchase organic produce, harvested that very morning, for a fair price, directly from farmers. With this paper I would like to challenge conceptions of discrete development trajectories, and invite reflections on cross-fertilization of imagination and practice between different parts of the world.

Electrical failure at home: living beyond chaos.

Author: Helene Subremon (UMR CNRS LAVUE)  email
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Long Abstract

Over the last winters, European countries experienced peaks of electrical consumption (over 90 000MW in France). According to experts, we have avoided a major electrical breakdown.

Beyond a topical issue, breakdown is also an accurate object of anthropological investigation that would help to understand the ability of western ways of life to adjust themselves under strong constraint. This analysis should be situated into a more global context that leads us to re-think western ways of life and their impact on energy ressources.

This communication will be built from the findings of a larger research dedicated to an anthropological approach on energy in the domestic sphere. An extensive fieldwork has been done in Paris, London, Karlstruhe and Berlin. We propose, here, to underline the creativity of actual practices to assure the continuity of family life when appliances are down and the immense related field of representations.

Cultivating knowledge and practice

Author: Ben Campbell (Durham University)  email
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Long Abstract

Starting from the point of view that anthropology and environmentally sustainable food growing need to be encouraged into a two-way relationship, this paper tracks learning iterations over thirty years of moving between gardens, allotments, kitchen tables and Himalayan terraces, comparative ethnography, social theory, and organic thinking and practice. Much of anthropology's contribution to imagining sustainable food culture is bound up in social practices that non-anthropologists exoticise, often to good rhetorical purpose, but perhaps missing the point that it is not so much arcane knowledge, or ritualised relations of instruction that make ongoing habits and desires of tastes and smells replicable, as practices of environmental personhood and mutual aid. By discussing participation in WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms/ World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) for over 25 years, and reciprocal exchange labour groups in Nepal, the cultural conditions of cooperative socialities in food growing will be contended with, and the prospects assessed for overcoming current food crises with anthropological imagination.

An exercise of imagination: ecovillage endeavours

Author: Marcus Andreas (LMU Munich)  email
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Long Abstract

This presentation explores processes of imagination and articulation connected to 'the garden' of the ecovillage Sieben Linden in Germany. The concepts of permaculture and bioregionalism are vital here, at the same time rural identity and lifestyle remain ambiguous for many inhabitants. The crisis of the contemporary opens up a window of opportunity - but what exactly does the ecovillage offer? To whom?

Concepts and theories as developed by Stuart Hall (via Gramsci) and utilised by James Clifford are employed in this research. The villagers are presented as creative actors, re-articulating themselves in the light of current events. Threads like Permaculture and Bioregionalism have to be weaven anew into the fabric of the village, in order to make use and sense of the specific locality. As Mrs. C.W. Earle (1897) put it: "Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination."

Cultivating community, gardening anthropology: permaculture, local food and engaged research.

Authors: Thomas Henfrey (Durham University)  email
Amy Mycock (Durham University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper reports preliminary findings from collaborative action research within a self-organised network of local food producers, consumers and activists in County Durham with close links to permaculture and climate change action movements. Within the Durham Local Food Network, application of permaculture design principles promotes synergy among diverse localisation agendas driven by multiple intersecting discourses. Co-design accordingly contextualises research within the emerging social ecology of local food activism. Optimising the productivity of such research depends on negotiating potential trade-offs of academic and practical yields.

Gardening for Paradise at Mountain Gardens, Katuah Bioregion, USA

Author: James Veteto (University of North Texas)  email
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Long Abstract

In 1972, Joe Hollis headed out to three acres of land his parents had purchased in the Appalachian mountains with a box of books and some bulk food. A friend from the peace corps helped him build a wooden yurt to live in. Now over forty years later, Mountain Gardens houses the largest private collection of medicinal plants on the east coast of the US, and Joe is recognized as one the greatest living herbalists in the southeastern US. He has made extensive study of traditional healing modalities and ways of living across the world and integrated them into design and practice at Mountain Gardens. Permaculture, Green Anarchism, Taoist ecology, and the "Paradise Gardening" philosophy that Joe has developed offer compelling alternatives and answers to the ecological crisis.

Anthropology, utopianism, and ecotopia

Author: Joshua Lockyer (Washington University in St. Louis)  email
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Long Abstract

We are in a utopian moment. A variety of social, ecological, and environmental crises suggest that the time is ripe for utopian reimaginings of the world, with all of the potentials and pitfalls that such utopian reimaginings entail. Indeed, the widely promoted concept of sustainability is ultimately utopian in nature; it is the good place that we must strive for but also a place that may not actually exist except in theory. This paper will explore anthropology's engagement with utopian and utopianism, drawing particularly on Richard Fox's work on Gandhian utopia and Eugene Andersons's work on ecotopia. It will suggest that anthropology's relevance to a world in crisis mode can be boosted by adopting a solutions-focused approach and engaging with movements grounded in ecotopian visions of sustainability - bioregionalism, permaculture, and ecovillages - and their practical attempts to achieve those visions.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.