Accepted paper:

Beyond Appearances: Organicism and Mysticism in South German Rurality


Francesca Merlan (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I explore contrasts between regulatory relationships of farmers and others to landscape in South Germany, and mystical and organic practices and connections of people and land in the idiom of biodynamic agriculture.

Paper long abstract:

In the south German region where I have done research in several farming villages and a medium-sized regional town, certain regulatory ideas about human relationship with landscape in the context of farming practice were widely shared by farmers and non-farmers alike. There is a sensitivity to `density' of settlement, and strong desire to preserve boundedness, homogeneity and categorial clarity of space. Though `inner' and `outer' domains of built village and outlying lands, Aussen- and Innenbereiche, are to be kept distinct, an organic link between them is realized partly through the legal, proprietorial and operational unity of each village farmhouse with its outlying lands; and reproduced as a unity through annual Church processions and objects, as well as messages delivered in sermons and Church functions. Farmers are attentive to the appearance and neatness of their fields, but did not tend to express particular attachment to their lands as such. Rather a more general vein of emotive expression came to the fore in a minority of farmers who had a strong interest in the philosophy and practice of biodynamic agriculture, largely as espoused by Rudolf Steiner, and in experimental agricultural techniques based on biodynamic concepts. In this paper I explore views on farming and relationship to land and nature through this vein of mystical thought expressed by this minority, its relation to forms of Catholicism and spiritualism, and to the more widely shared regulatory spatial concepts described briefly above.

panel P18
Appropriating rurals