Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Is caring for the land still possible? Among Mapuche farmers in Chile this question sums up many of the historical uncertainties over assimilation and rural outmigration. Several decades of both forceful and wilful adoption of invasive agricultural practices and technologies associated with settlers, mostly represented as usurpers (winka) always on the move and with no affect towards the land, have called into question the values and teachings of the “old ones” as unfeasible strategies to ensure the continuity of small-scale farming. By focusing on emotions and mundane acts of nurturing plants and soils among Mapuche farmers, I intend to show some of the ways in which “respect” towards non-human sentience and reciprocity is negotiated and a will to protect the land while exploiting it are mediated in practice. No stable balance is achieved, as uncertainties of caring and exploiting the land reflects the broader settler colonial conundrum of having to become more like settlers in order ensure the continuity of land connections upon which indigenous belonging is predicated. In this scenario, enchantment towards non-human life is possible only as a wilful commitment to learn about and perceive some of the ways in which plants and other non-humans feel and can be felt in the midst of their ongoing and perhaps inevitable depletion.