Re-earthing: A Social Semiotics of Agroecological Futures

Authors: Huiying Ng*, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society
Topics: Food Systems, Human-Environment Geography, Feminist Geographies
Keywords: agroecology, futures, bodies, learning assemblage, biosemiotics
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drawing on ethnographic material collected from 2016-2018 in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand and Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and looking towards the start of a new project (2020-2024), I make an argument for how agroecology can be scaled out through an agroecological learning assemblage, fleshed out by two empirical contexts: the study of toxicity and conditions of impossible living, and the search for regenerative routes. I suggest that the narrative environments we create allow relative forms of (de)valuation to perpetuate, in the “slow violence” not of material extraction but of epistemic colonialism, amidst the frighteningly quick pace of climate crisis and emergency for the bodies directly involved. Instead of the political ecology of crisis and aftermath, extraction and ruin, I plot out a series of methodological coordinates and footholes for a different re-search: one in which agroecology’s principles of working with one’s resources, and its processual approach to cultivating with emergence, helps us propose a form of collaborative knowledge production around possible futures. I suggest that by looking at soil as a body of work, we may begin to find paths to reassembling the ecological body needed to stretch outwards possible futures—especially as agricultural innovation for farmers draws investor attention, while agricultural policies globally lag in their protection for farmers. Three futures are laid out for discussion, and include i) an aspired-to future of extrinsic growth; ii) a negative future of diminishing value; and iii) the future as disavowed, which emphasizes the immanent present and presence of being and emergence.

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