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Tilting relationalities: Exploring the world through possible futures of agriculture

Henrietta L. Moore and Juan M. Moreno (2022)

Demography has driven increases in agricultural productivity and is in the limelight once again with questions about how we intend to feed 9 billion people on the planet. The scale of this challenge and the ecological threat from collapsing resources has generated a sense of impending crisis, but remarkably little action. The frames of reference tend towards climate change and the Anthropocene, but perhaps a more fruitful approach is to reflect on developments in agriculture and agroecology to examine the scale and significance of the ecological challenges we face. In this article, we use agriculture as a nodal point through which to engage with the emerging and dislocating human–planetary relations of the contemporary world, reflecting on past, current and future notions of ‘progress’, and on how ongoing developments and experiments in making a living with others (human, non-human and more-than-human others) might offer potential pathways for positive social transformation and future flourishing. As we argue throughout the article, reassessing notions of progress does not mean the mere return to traditional forms of knowledge and practice, nor embracing a form of luddite politics absent of advances in modern science and technology. Instead, we propose this is about opening spaces where diversity, pluralism and contending perspectives and agencies are engaged on their own terms, creating and sharing alternative knowledge and ways of doing and being. Here, the role for the social sciences and humanities is not to describe or pretend to represent these emerging relationalities, but instead to enable and actively engage them. Doing this responsibly and effectively will require us to inhabit the disorienting and discomforting ruins of progress, eschewing the turn towards finalised solutions and outcomes.

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