Rationale and Expected Impacts

In the first two years of the network will organise a series of five workshops in the UK and in South America, which will be directly informed by the input of the publics who live, produce and consume in agricultural frontier areas, and the organisations that advocate for change on their behalf. A vital part of resolving academic debates, and making these relevant to real-world change, is to present practitioners views at events where general members of the public do not normally contribute. The series of workshops will hence involve novel collaborations between academic partners, civil society practitioners, representatives of farmers, workers and residents. The events will benefit from the visualisation and representation of the agricultural frontier through the use and recording of images, symbols, maps and artefacts, which will inform the understanding of the spatial history of the agricultural advance in the Amazon.

Each workshop will combine talks, plenary discussions and sessions dedicated to posters and presentations. The events will also include ‘voices from the field’, that is, presentation of citizen testimony and practitioners’ views. The intention is to involve stakeholder groups not normally invited to such activities, but with an important contribution to offer. The workshops will also include artistic and folklore performances (such as dance, music, exhibition of artisanal work, painting, drama or poetry) as thought- provoking tools related to the specific theme of the workshop. The activities of the workshop will be transmitted via webinar to give the opportunity to other colleagues to engage (even remotely) in the discussion. The content, the discussions and the recommendations raised at each workshop will be widely disseminated to make a difference and influence policies.

The sequence of themes and the proposed workshops will run as follows (note that the titles and the aims may be adjusted according to demands and suggestions made by network members):

  1. The historical and cultural trajectory of agricultural frontiers and the subjectivities of regional development in the Amazon (to be held at Cardiff University)
    Our first workshop will discuss the history, the perceptions and the cultural exchanges behind the expansion of agricultural frontiers in the Amazon. It will examine how different sectors and social groups have been involved in wide development trajectories and will assess gaps in the existing historical and cultural interpretations. In addition, the first workshop will consider the results and socio-ecological contradictions of the process of development.
  2. Emerging identities and languages (Federal University of Mato Grosso & State University of Mato Grosso, Brazil)
    The second workshop will focus specifically on the hybrid, emerging identities and linguistic manifestations of socio-spatial perceptions. It will discuss existing evidences and the need to expand research on, among other groups, old and new farmers, mixed populations, indigenous tribes and Amerindian groups that only recently started to claim an indigenous identity (índios ressurgidos = resurged Indians). The workshop will also deal with the cultural aspects of religiosity and the ethical responses to socio-ecological changes.
  3. Gendered and lived agricultural frontiers (Colombia National University, Leticia, Colombia & State University of Amazonas, Tabatinga campus, Brazil)
    The third workshop will focus on the lived experience of the frontier, with particular attention to household and gender differences. The event will address the diverse lived experience of ‘people in places’, critiquing the politics of food and exploring the diverse pathways through which different ‘rural and urban worlds’ can initiate and navigate change. This workshop will take place simultaneously in two universities at the border between Brazil and Colombia, which are some of the more recent areas of expansion of the agricultural frontier.
  4. The importance of culture to food sovereignty and to development alternatives (Federal University of Rondônia, with the support of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
    The fourth workshop will discuss the centrality of cultural diversity and political agency for the agenda of food sovereignty. The work will consider that what counts as agriculture and nature are not separate from their representation, but representations are, in turn, irrevocably tied to the embodied actions of the observers.
  5. Prefigured and imagined new agriculture frontiers (King’s College London)
    The fifth workshop will bring together the insights from the first four events, outlining the lessons learned in terms of cultural changes and emerging identities. The discussion in this fifth workshop will focus on future scenarios, prefigurative futures, challenges and opportunities to secure social inclusion, respect for cultural pluralism, fairness and justice.

Overall, the Arts and Humanities community (broadly defined) can greatly contribute towards the solution of environment and development dilemmas in the Amazon region, particularly considering the aggressive advance of agricultural modernisation and the movement of people to new areas, which have resulted in complex cultural exchanges, the rapid erosion of old practices and the formation of new, hybrid identities. There is also a clear responsibility of local and national governments and the international community to swiftly respond to the emerging challenges presented by impacts on traditions, customs and knowledges, mounting socio-economic inequalities and ecosystem degradation, and the lack of proper recognition of the agency, distinctiveness and subjectivities of groups of old and new residents (such as extractive communities, squatters, family farmers and indigenous tribes) in areas of agricultural frontier.