Crisis, Transformation, and Agency: Why are People Going Back to the Land in Greece?

Authors: Karina Benessaiah*, McGill University, Hallie Eakin, Arizona State University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Europe, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: crisis, agency, social-ecological, transformations, Greece, back-to-land
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Washington 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Transformations of social-ecological systems are fundamentally about agency: human intention, motivation, and power to influence and to resist. Most studies of social-ecological transformations focus on deliberate system-level transformations, usually guided by a set of influential actors. However, system-level transformations may also occur as the result of, or in combination with, the cascading effects of multiple individual transformations anticipating or responding to crises. Little is known about how crises foster these individual transformations, and how these may relate to different types of system-level change (deliberate vs. uncoordinated).This article seeks to fill this gap by looking at how crisis fosters agency and individual transformations in the case of Greeceā€™s back-to-land movement, whereby urbanites sought to reconnect with land-based livelihoods during the economic crisis (2008-onwards). While most studies of adaptation and transformation have focused on environmental crises (climate change or natural hazards), social-ecological systems have also been wrecked by social disturbances such as the ongoing economic and political crisis in Greece. These economic crises provide an opportunity to explore how individual agencies are actualized, leading to individual transformations, and, in turn, how such transformations may aggregate to system-level changes. The article presents a framework to analytically examine the linkages between individual, collective and system-level transformations. The article draws on the qualitative analysis of 76 interviews of back-to-landers to understand why are people going back to the land (their motivations), how this relates to agency and personal transformation, and what implications might be for system-level social-ecological transformations.

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