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Clarion Congress & Hotel, Cosmos 3C


Hugh Campbell and Geoff Lawrence, University of Otago, New Zealand.

Topic: Agricultural Science and Education: Using Farm Education Texts to reveal the Ontology of Modernist Farming


The study of agricultural science has been a major area of neglect in rural sociology. When critical research has emerged about agricultural science’s role in the elaboration of farming systems it has often involved a search for the ‘capitalist’ qualities of science and/or the relationship between agricultural science institutions and corporate agribusiness. This paper draws on insights from Science and Technology studies to draw novel insights into the contribution of agricultural science to enacting modernist agriculture. We focus, in particular, on the ontological power of agricultural science to silence and erase important dimensions of farming worlds in order to create a modernist, unitary, reality of farming. Such erasures include an ignoring of social and ecological dynamics in agriculture and the erasing of farm histories. This ‘ontological power’ is particularly evident in the assembling of modernist farming during the 20th Century. One way to examine the emergence of a modernist farming ontology is by examining the way that farm education textbooks have enacted modernist ontologies of a mechanistic farm system that exists in total absence of society, environment or history.

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