Patterns in place: the aesthetic dimensions of agroecological sustainability

Authors: Daniel Niles*, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature
Topics: Anthropocene, Agricultural Geography, Cultural Ecology
Keywords: agricultural heritage, aesthetics, agroecology, material culture, anthropocene
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Marshall South, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
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This presentation examines different forms of environmental knowledge, the role of this knowledge in cultural persistence through time, and its consequent significance to the intellectual challenges of the Anthropocene. The paper describes the activity of a master charcoal-maker in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, who works in a landscape recognized by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System—a place of high-value cultural-ecological interaction. While the ecological values of such places are of increasing scientific interest, the ontological and epistemological dimensions of these values—their basis in cultural understandings of the natural agencies, relationships, and interactions in those places—remain remote, even other-worldly. Drawing on theories of material culture and the evolution of knowledge, the persistence of patterns of cultural-ecological interaction is interpreted here as evidence of the persistence of particular bodies of environmental knowledge. Attention to the production and use of charcoal exposes the “overlapping” structure of this knowledge, allowing us to grasp the role of aesthetic sensibilities in linking diverse experiences of human-environmental sustainability.

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