Topic: Farmer as fractured: Rationalization, disenchantment, and the (un)changing farmer
Keywords: Farmer ontologies, rationalization, disenchantment, fracture
The enactment of the “farmer” identity has always played a role in constituting farm activities. Farmer narratives and practices contribute to the divisions between who and/or what is responsible for particular aspects of farm reproduction. These relationships can be internal to the farm, as well as connecting material-symbolic aspects of the farm with processes beyond its boundaries. Farm activities connect the farmer – to others on the farm, in the community, and to the public – but at the same time fracture the farm and farmer. In this paper we use the term “fracturing” to capture the discontinuities between material-symbolic activities and relationships. These relationships also include broader economic, political, socio-cultural, and institutional narratives and practices that both fracture and continue to connect the farmer. We provide examples of how processes of rationalization and disenchantment have changed the farmer-farm within United States and New Zealand contexts, and work to connect this to Van Der Ploeg’s distinction between peasant and settler state ontologies. For instance, farm activities have become increasingly distinct and parsed/contracted out, distance has increased between farmer and consumer, technical and calculative processes have become commonplace, and expertise often lies outside the farm. Arguably, these have challenged farmer economic and institutional autonomy and agency. Yet, some of the farmer’s socio-cultural and political fractures have continued to be forceful in defending farmer autonomy and agency. These relate to symbolic boundaries around who a farmer ought to be, who should benefit from farm ecological and labor processes, and connections between the farm and broader systems (e.g. neocolonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, etc). We posit that the loss of economic and institutional autonomy through rationalization has placed further importance on political and socio-cultural narratives and practices. In this way, while aspects of the fractured farmer-farm have become disenchanted, magic still exists and has been re-entrenched through narratives and practices which work to justify inequality and exploitation.