Society for Anthropological Sciences
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Maria Stapleton (Northern Illinois University)
Central Mexican and Midwestern US farmers' understand and interact with natural and supernatural aspects of their worlds in dramatically different ways. This extension of an ongoing study of the Cultural Models of Nature held by farmers in a semi-arid, semi-rural Central Mexican highland community where rainfed agriculture is threatened by local climate change and industrial development, brings new comparative data collected from Northern Illinois farmers to bear on our developing analyses. We use semi-structured interviews, ranking, and rating activities to elicit local farmers’ emic conceptualization of nature. Semantic role, keyword, and thematic analyses of their ideas, rituals and behaviors reveal complex relationships between humans, the natural world, and the supernatural-religious realm. Topics include farmers’ differential valuation of local and foreign crops; trees, mountains, and supernatural entities conceived as agentive in bringing rain; certain people directly modifying local rains; and animals as bearers of knowledge of climatic change, as well as surprising differences in the Mexican and US farmers' sense of personal agency in their own farming.