Visualizing Possibilities: Rural Development Strategies Among African American Farmers in the Southeastern US Open Access

Franzen, Sarah Marie (2016)

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The industrialization of agriculture within the US has led to increased rural poverty, environmental pollution, and unhealthy food. And this system is being exported around the world, developing a form of global agriculture that will ultimately lead to environmental and social degradation. While many solutions and alternatives have emerged in response, this dissertation explores how farmers and rural populations can confront and change the impact of an industrialized agricultural system. Using the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (FSC/LAF) as a case study, this research explores the strategies and practices developed through grassroots organizing among black farmers in the southeastern US. The FSC/LAF promotes collective organizing among black farmers in particular, and family farmers in general, in order to simultaneously confront the dominant agricultural system and build alternative organizational forms that engender more sustainable and socially just forms of agriculture. Specifically, they utilize the strategies of land retention, cooperative development, and policy change in order to support these efforts. Each of these strategies is aimed at addressing the structural forms that shape black farmers' livelihoods. But structural forms are not discrete entities; they are an assemblage of processes built through ongoing practices. This research explores the practices that arise from, and give shape to, the FSC/LAF's institutional strategies. Drawing on data gathered through a multi-sited ethnography using adaptive co-production (a form of collaborative filmmaking), interviews, participant observation, and oral histories, Visualizing Possibilities traces how embodied practices produce and build spaces of resistance, a sense of cultural heritage and pride, and manifest development goals. This hybrid dissertation, which interlaces films and texts, argues that development is a transformative process comprised of transformative practices. These transformative practices consist of not only material and ideological shifts, but also embodied and aesthetic aspects that constitute visceral development--development that begins as a bodily conviction leading to collective and institutional strategies. This research uses filmmaking to engage these embodied practices that give rise to social change and rural development, and toprovide an applied means of driving ongoing communication and discussion both within and outside academia.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Framing Rural Development and the Case of Black Farmers. 1

Introduction. 1

Road to Epes. 7

Research Questions. 13

Background. 16

Community-based Development. 17

Racial Formation in the US Food System. 24

Ethnographic Filmmaking as Knowledge Production. 32

Methodology. 44

Chapter Outline. 51

Land. 51

Cooperatives. 52

Political Identity. 53

Bibliography. 54

Filmography. 65

Chapter 2. Creative Inquiry: Ethnographic Filmmaking as Adaptive Co-Production. 66

Introduction. 66

Collaborative Filmmaking. 71

Establishing a Collaborative Project. 83

Filming Collaboratively. 86

Ethnography Through Filmmaking. 89

My Project. 92

Observational. 93

Participant Directed. 101

Interviews. 104

Documentation. 108

Bibliography. 110

Filmography. 115

Chapter 3. Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. 116

Introduction. 116

Origins. 120

Rural Training and Research Center. 126

Emergency Land Fund. 129

Organizational Structure. 135

Field Sites. 138

Alabama. 141

Mississippi. 145

Bibliography. 150

Chapter 4: Contested Landscapes: The Construction of Spatial Rights. 153

Introduction. 153

Land as an Asset.159

Space and Place. 167

Film and Spatial Production. 171

Black-Owned Land: A Brief Background. 179

FSC/LAF Strategies for Land Rights. 183

Examples. 186

Ancestral Land. 188

Family Land. 195

Home Land. 200

Conclusion: From Land Rights to Spatial Rights. 207

Bibliography. 212

Filmography. 220

Chapter 5: Visualizing a Cooperative Movement. 221

Introduction. 221

Defining Cooperatives. 223

Cooperative as an Institution. 227

Cooperatives as Practice. 230

FSC/LAF's Cooperatives for Black Farmers. 240

Filming as Practice. 244

Examples. 246

The Southeastern Goat Cooperative of Alabama. 250

Attala County Self-Help Cooperative. 264

Indian Spring Farmers' Association. 278

Conclusion. 288

Bibliography. 291

Chapter 6: Rights and Resistance: Identity Politics and the Black Farmer. 295

Introduction. 295

Politicizing Identity. 300

Cultural Citizenship.305

Sensing the Subject. 309

Finding the Embodied Experience. 312

Examples. 316

Representing the Black Farmer. 317

Becoming the Black Farmer. 324

Growing Young Black Farmers. 329

Teaching Black Farmers. 335

Conclusion. 343

Bibliography. 345

Chapter 7: Conclusion. 349

Visceral Development. 352

Sensory Farming. 355

Aesthetic Expressions. 358

Knowing the Farm. 361

Contributions and Continued Research. 365

Bibliography. 369

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