Room Umeå, Ulls hus, Uppsala

Making a farm: The role of performance in forming agricultural knowledge


Division of Rural Development invites you to a seminar with Paul Richards, Emeritus Professor of Technology and Agrarian Development, Wageningen University.

When a piece of plastic art is made, an artefact - a sculpture or painting, for example - results. When music is made there is nothing beyond the performance. As Nietzsche observed it is not the purpose of a piece of music to arrive at the end. As a thought experiment it is helpful to think of a farm as more like a piece of music than a piece of plastic art. In particular, it is interesting to reflect on how success results from a combination of muscle memory and skilful timing. I illustrate some aspects of this claim with reference to the annual elaboration of successful rice farming in Sierra Leone, and in so doing underline the importance of gesture and timing. The presentation will then connect these “danced” elements to the wider performance of social life of farming communities. In elaborating a neo-Durkheimian theory of sociality Mary Douglas laid great stress on what she termed “styles of thought” reflecting foundational forms of social ordering. A better term might have been “styles of social enactment”, since modern developments in human physiology allow for a sub-cognitive level of interaction. The paper concludes that agro-technological transformation cannot be properly understood without taking account of styles of social enactment.


  Paul Richards Emeritus Professor of Technology and Agrarian Development, Wageningen University, has carried out research for over 45 years in agrarian communities in West Africa. Recent books include Ebola: How a people’s science helped end an epidemic (Zed Books 2016), Mary Douglas: Understanding social thought and conflict (with Perri 6, Berghahn 2017), and Institutions and agrarian development: A new approach to West Africa (with Erwin Bulte and Maarten Voors, Palgrave 2018).
Time: 2018-11-21 13:00 - 14:00
City: Uppsala
Location: Room Umeå, Ulls hus
Organiser: Division of Rural Development
Additional info:

This talk is part of the higher seminar-series in Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. If you want to get emails about our events, please contact:
Klara.Fischer@slu.se or Harry.Fischer@slu.se.

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