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Accepted Paper:

Caring Agriculture  


Elisabeth Kosnik (University of Graz)

Paper short abstract:

By applying discourses of care work to alternative agricultural practices our research explores how organic smallholders in Austria expand their concepts of work to inlcude relationships of care with more-than-human actors, recognising their contributions to creating value and making a livelihood.

Paper long abstract:

We would like to present the results of a two-year research project investigating full-time farmers in Austria who - apparently opting for a precarious lifestyle - down-size their farms or remain deliberately small-scale, practise non-conventional agriculture far beyond organic standards, and distribute largely unprocessed staple foods along local consumer networks. In this transdisciplinary research (Cultural Anthropology, European Ethnology, History, and Applied Agricultural Science) we move beyond the persistent dichotomy of "capitalist agriculture" vs. a "romantic rurality" of hobby farmers in industrialised societies. Based on biographic interviews with farming families of four smallholdings, our findings demonstrate that these highly trained agriculturalists are keenly aware of the necessity to make a living. Yet, they refuse to do so through exploitation - of soil life, farm animals, the environment, and human labour, including their own. Applying and extending feminist theories of care work to such agricultural practices that go beyond the nature/culture divide (Haraway, Puig de la Bellacasa) allows us to explore farmers' concepts and practices of work as co-production with more-than-human actors. Mutual relationships of care are essential to "good" agriculture for these farmers, yet often it is "thankless labour". The value of their work is frequently disputed, by state bureaucracy as well as consumers who ignore, even penalize practices of care-work. Through direct encounters with consumers - by engaging in community supported agriculture schemes, food coops, and farmers' markets for example - the farmers hope to claim recognition for their work, in economic as well as social terms.

Panel P100
Rethinking work, power and social reproduction in and beyond Europe [Anthropology of Labour Network]