Dirt Matters: Political Ecologies of Soil and Development

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Organizers: Marygold Walsh-Dilley, Daniel Ahlquist
Chairs: Marygold Walsh-Dilley


This session focuses on the dynamic relationships between farmers and the soil, and the ways in which those relationships are changing in response to local and non-local factors. Indigenous, peasant and other smallholder agriculturalists across the Global South have long pursued livelihood practices that balance human needs against the health of soils and other natural resources (Zimmerer 1997; Shaoting 2001; Brush 2004). Yet, many of these same agriculturalists today adopt land use practices that threaten the health of the soils upon which they depend. The source of this contradiction involves contemporary political processes, including development or conservation policies, extractivism, market engagements, debt relations, conflict, and the drug war, among many other possible causes (Blaikie 1985; Robbins 2012; Lyons 2016). But human-soil relations might also be sites for resistance to state policies and growth-oriented development that otherwise lead to degradation (Lyons 2016). Papers in this session use political-ecological approaches to examine how land use strategies and practices shape and are shaped by soil fertility (or lack thereof), as well as the ways in which farmers’ relationships to external actors (e.g. states), projects (e.g. neoliberal policies), processes (e.g. globalization, market integration), and new technologies manifest in their changing relationships to the soil. We are particularly interested in approaches that frame soils and other nonhuman entities as active presences within political ecologies (Mitchell 2002; Latour 2004).

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Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Marygold Walsh-Dilley*, University of New Mexico, Pacha Mama: Grounding the Agrarian Transitions of the Quinoa Boom 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Jonathan Otto*, University of British Columbia, Dirty development: centering soil in the study of rural development in southeastern Mexico 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Stephen Wood*, The Nature Conservancy, Challenging the paradigm of soil degradation: a case-study in southeastern Senegal 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Daniel Ahlquist*, Michigan State University, Cultivating Insecurity: How Thai conservation and development policies promote unsustainable practices and foster insecurity in upland farming communities 20 9:00 AM
Discussant Karl Zimmerer Pennsylvania State University 20 9:20 AM

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