The Agro-Cultures Research Network is an interdisciplinary initiative launched in 2018 – with an initial two years’ core funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK-AHRC) – that involves academics and non-academics of both the Global North and the Global South interested in connecting up disconnected disciplinary discourses and disparate analytical approaches to culture, alterity and the history of agricultural frontiers in the Amazon. Through a series of events and sustained debates, the research network will increasingly engage diverse audiences and participants who will together to develop new knowledge of the significance of agricultural frontiers in the contemporary world and set the agenda for future work in the interlocking, interdisciplinary study of the history of development and socio-cultural diversity in areas of agricultural expansion and economic intensification in the Amazon region.
The Agro-Cultures network will forge opportunities to debate the socio-cultural trajectory of change in the Amazon with a focus on ‘agro-cultural’ frontiers, that is, the recently established areas of intensive agricultural production. Since the 1970s, different social groups were attracted to the region, leading to intense miscegenation, cultural and linguistic exchanges, relations of identities and of differences, and the socio-ecological tensions between newcomers and long-time residents, but the main cultural and historical dimensions of those ongoing processes have still not been properly examined.
Our intention is to bring together Arts and Humanities scholars, in dialogue with the wider academic and non-academic community, to explore, share, and recreate expressions of the lived experience in agro-cultural frontiers.
The specific objectives of the new network are:
- Establish the Agro-Cultures Research Network, which will involve primarily British, European, North American and South American academics and non-academics. The new network will develop holistic, interdisciplinary approaches and collaborative opportunities to study culture, identity and alterities of agricultural frontiers. It is expected to include scholars from different disciplines, such as anthropology, history, sociology, human geography, arts and literature, cultural and media studies, among others.
- Run five workshops as gateways into the histories and cultures of agricultural frontiers in the Amazon, which will help to establish the international academic network and develop ideas and advance understandings of the microhistory, cultural pluralism and emerging identities in areas of agricultural expansion in the Amazon region. Over a period of 24 months, the workshops will take part in different locations of the UK and in South America and will focus on specific interdisciplinary themes: cultural and historical dimensions; emerging identities and languages; gendered and lived frontiers; culture and the development of alternatives; and prefigured and imagined futures.
- Beyond academics and students, the five workshops will give voice to non-academic groups (such as family and commercial farmers, rural workers, indigenous tribes, extractive communities and settlers in urban peripheries) to articulate their concerns over cultural changes and social integration and to incorporate their socio-spatial perspectives into the development of pathways to well-being and political inclusion.
- Foster North-South and multi-actor long-term Arts and Humanities collaboration to facilitate joint investigation and raise recommendations to international development and national policy-making. The initiative will propose alternatives to the existing socio-economic trends and to the failures of politico-economic decision making. It will also enable knowledge transfer, research networking and cross-agency learning for the actors involved at the local, national and international levels. Work done in the Amazon demonstrates that regional development and agriculture intensification trends are translated into values and practices at the local level, which affect political mobilisation and the ability of locals to adopt technologies and respond to pressures.