Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
What changes in terms of lived experience when the meaning of land shifts? This talk traces the discursively constructed meaning and value of land by state agencies, family farmers, and private industry in upland Ireland over the last two centuries, culminating in an examination of an ongoing multi-land use struggle between conservation, green energy production, carbon sequestration, high nature value farming, and local livelihood. Historically, the discursive marginalization of both people and land opened the Irish uplands up for rational and progressive state-led development. This led to shifts in land use including family farm reorganization, intensification and agro-forestry. Using a similar argument of marginalization, more recent discursive constructions reconfigure the same land under the guise of conservation and green energy. Upland farmers both resist and participate in these discourses while caught in the midst of ongoing efforts to reconstruct the social value of land while its economic value is likewise affected. What land means locally however is bound up in an assemblage of rights and obligations pertaining as much to family, tradition, and Irish freedom as to state and European Union regulation. Often treated largely as a canvas upon which intricate political, economic, and multi-species relations unfold, this talk asks what we can learn by weaving in the multiple constructions of land itself into complex land relations.