Strategies of care and repair in the ruins of (post)-productivism

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Abstract

Decades of ‘productivist’ agricultural development policy have fundamentally reshaped rural landscapes and livelihoods in the West (Burton & Wilson, 2012), including Denmark. In agriculture, productivist development have historically rested on the assumption that large-scale systems are more efficient, leading to bigger and fewer fields and farms. However, while ‘productivist’ agricultural tools have enabled great abundance in terms of yield, they have also left ruins. Materialised in once-active, now-passive empty smallholdings, cooperatives, dairies, schools and factories, rural districts suffer the ruination of growth-based models for scalability (Tsing, 2019).
Since the 1980s, researchers have spoken of a shift towards a ‘post-productivist’ phase where farmers are encouraged to shift part of their focus production to initiatives targeting environmental concerns (Almås & Campbell, 2012). With the ruination and ‘emptying’ of rural districts brought about by national centralisation and productivist policies as a backdrop, I explore farmers’ attitudes and responses to sustainable development and ‘post-productivist’ measures.
In reality, productivist large-scale agriculture requires constant maintenance in the shape of technology, chemicals, knowledge and work. External elements, such as weeds, insects and pests, pose a threat to neat arrangement of the system. Thus, scalability requires a lot of boundary work. Farmers carry out this boundary work. Boundary work and the maintenance of productivity have given farmers their ‘licence to produce’. Accordingly, the ‘good farmer’ is one who manages to maintain the productivity of large-scale systems by fencing off transformative relationships that might mess up the system and its economic feasibility. This challenges change and development.
This conference contribution will present ethnographic research on the boundary work, repair work and ‘care’ strategies applied by conventional farmers in order to maintain livability in the ruins of productivist development policy and within the emergent green development frontier. This is a paradoxical practise of maintaining scalability, which includes both the reparation and destruction of rural livelihoods. I argue that it is important to pay attention to local matters of care and repair in the maintenance of large-scale production systems, when we consider the development of rural areas.

Almås, R., & Campbell, H. (2012). Rethinking Agricultural Policy Regimes (Vol. 18): Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Burton, R. J. F., & Wilson, G. A. (2012). The Rejuvenation of Productivist Agriculture: The Case for ‘Cooperative Neo-Productivism’. In R. Almås & H. Campbell (Eds.), Rethinking Agricultural Policy Regimes: Food Security, Climate Change and the Future Resilience of Global Agriculture (Vol. 18, pp. 51-72): Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Tsing, A. L. (2019). On nonscalability: The living world is not amenable to precision-nested scales. Common knowledge, 25(1-3), 143-162.

Original languageEnglish
Publication dateMay 2022
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
EventRe-scaling the Rural - Kulhuset i Thy og Arkitektskolen Aarhus, Thy/Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 20 May 202223 May 2022
https://aarch.dk/re-scaling-the-rural/

Conference

ConferenceRe-scaling the Rural
LocationKulhuset i Thy og Arkitektskolen Aarhus
Country/TerritoryDenmark
CityThy/Aarhus
Period20/05/202223/05/2022
Internet address

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