Ambivalent middlemen: representations of the countryside among agricultural experts in western Poland
Dong Ju Kim
(Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the role of agricultural experts and their interaction with farmers in Wielkopolska, western Poland, and highlights how agricultural knowledge can both support and undermine moral claims for the appropriation of rural production.
Paper long abstract:
During the socialist era in Poland, the rural was always compared and contrasted with the progressive and revolution-leading industrial urban. The countryside represented ideological and material backwardness, although it represented a core element of national identity at the same time. Agricultural products figured in this relationship as key symbols in defining urban-rural relations. How has this relationship changed after market reforms and privatization? How is the rural defined within this new frame of reference? In this paper, I plan to analyze the urban-rural relationship from the viewpoint of agricultural knowledge on fertilizers and soil elements with an emphasis on rural agricultural experts and their interactions with farmers. After socialism, the hitherto state-monopolized knowledge became institutionally dispersed into companies, state organizations, and private enterprises. By following these positional changes of experts in a private beetsugar factory, I will be able to shed light on how persisting conceptions of the rural are redefined, reinforced, and reproduced through the view of experts on the ground. On another level, the tension between experts and farmers will show how moral claims and negotiations in contracting agricultural products are interpreted differently based on variable understandings of credit, crop standards, and European policy. I will pay special attention to the language and rhetoric that frame these conversations between experts and farmers in public and private, and how these conversations inform practice on both sides. I hope to show that the performative maneuvering on both sides has the effect of reproducing the image of the rural in both material and symbolic ways.