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Creating The Countryside

Creating The Countryside

E. Melanie DuPuis
Peter Vandergeest
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Creating The Countryside
    Book Description:

    What does it mean to save nature and rural life? Do people know what they are trying to save and what they mean by "save"? As the answers to these questions become more and more unclear, so, too do the concepts of "environment," "wilderness," and "country."

    From the abuse of the Amazon rain forest to how Vermont has been marketed as the ideal rural place, this collection looks at what the countryside is, should be, or can be from the perspective of people who are actively involved in such debates. Each contributor examines the underlying tendencies-and subsequent policies-that separate country from city, developed land from wilderness, and human activity from natural processes. The editors argue in their introduction that these dualistic categories limit our ability to think about environmental and rural problems and hamper our ability to formulate practical, realistic, and just solutions.

    This book's interpretive approach to the natural world explores why people make artificial distinctions between nature and culture, and how people can create new forms of sustainable development in terms of real problems and real places.

    In the seriesConflicts in Urban and Regional Development, edited by John R. Logan and Todd Swanstrom.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0145-8
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables, Figures, and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)
    Peter Vandergeest and E. Melanie DuPuis

    Environmental themes have come to pervade our everyday lives. T-shirts, bumper-stickers, and TV spots constantly exhort us to save this species of animal or that patch of nature. An equally persistent, though less pervasive, “ruralist” movement has called for saving the countryside, family farms, and rural life. Rurality, moreover, is often linked to nature, so that the recent surge in interest in saving nature means interest in rurality is also on the rise.

    As attention becomes more focused on rurality and nature, the once accepted meanings of words like “environment,” “country,” “family farms,” and “wilderness” are becoming less and less...

  6. Part I Modernization and Marginalization

    • 2 Stone Age New England: A Geology of Morals
      (pp. 29-64)
      Michael M. Bell

      New England, as virtually everyone knows, is a lousy place for farming. Too hilly, too infertile, but most especially too rocky, the New England landscape has seldom been considered providential. This widely proclaimed fact of nature has become, in various ways, a part of the region’s popular identity. As a few old chestnut s that purport to describe New England have it,

      Nature, out of her boundless store,

      Threw rocks tog ether, and did no more.

      Maine’s number two-crop is potatoes. It’s [sic] number one crop is stones.

      When you buy meat, you buy bones.

      When you buy land, you...

    • 3 The Farm as Firm: Rhetoric and the Remanufacturing of Basque Agrarian Production
      (pp. 65-96)
      Peter Leigh Taylor

      In the field of development sociology, recent discussions of contemporary global economic processes have focused on the “impasse” to which economistic and essentialist theories have led (Booth 1985; Corbridge 1990; Vandergeest and Buttel 1988). This chapter uses the case of a Basque agrarian cooperative to examine how such metatheoretical impasses may confront not only critical and mainstream scholars but practitioners charged with combining theory and practice in order to actually “produce” development. The restructuring of agrarian society in much of the industrialized West has been inadequately theorized as a more or less inevitable, if not automatic response to market pressures....

  7. Part II People In and Out of Nature

    • 4 In the Name of Nature: Ecology, Marginality, and Rural Land Use Planning During the New Deal
      (pp. 99-134)
      E. Melanie DuPuis

      The 1930s saw the introduction of ecological concepts into U.S. public policy discussions concerning rural land use. A new group of thinkers, in particular Aldo Leopold, argued cogently that humans should live in harmony with, not in control of, nature. The idea that nature, acting through its potentials and constraints, had a role to play in the formation of society quickly became part of public debate concerning the use of natural resources. Environmental historians have treated the advent of policy in the name of nature as a sign of public enlightenment (Nash 1982; Terrie 1985; Merchant 1989; Worster 1977). These...

    • 5 “Reserving” Value: Conservation Ideology and State Protection of Resources
      (pp. 135-165)
      Nancy Lee Peluso

      How does resource valuation affect the ways people “construct” the countryside? How do different resource users define and value wilderness, wild places, or untamed places in contrast to cultivated, “improved,” tamed, and mapped areas? What sorts of places are viewed as productive, which are inaccessible? All these concepts are defined by different and changing experiences of social context and history. From the perspective of a state,¹ a ruling group, or an extractive enterprise, human activities can be better controlled (managed) in tamed areas. Centralized or bureaucratic efforts to control nature characterize non-Western as well as Western societies, in colonial, precolonial,...

    • 6 Native Amazonians and the Making of the Amazon Wilderness: From Discourse of Riches and Sloth to Underdevelopment
      (pp. 166-203)
      William H. Fisher

      The process by which particular environments come to be descriptively labeled is exceedingly complex. In the case of the Amazon, one cannot speak only of an autochthonous development, the growth of scientific knowledge, or human understanding, but of a global exchange of competing enterprises and meanings. Current descriptions of the Amazon as a region defined, above all, by its natural characteristics have made it difficult to appreciate some rather dramatic changes in what the perception of the Amazon as a particularly “natural” area might mean. While the weight of the environment in explaining the state and potential of the Amazonian...

    • 7 Reverence Is Not Enough: Ecological Marxism and Indian Adivasis
      (pp. 204-224)
      Amita Baviskar

      Environmental movements in India assert that their ideology incorporates an all-encompassing critique of environmentally destructive “development.” Such movements also claim that this critique is writ large in the actions of those marginalized by development, by the indigenous people who have, in the past, lived in harmony with nature. According to the intellectuals of the environmental movements, indigenous people combine reverence for nature with sustainable management of resources. Because of their cultural ties to nature, indigenous people are exemplary stewards of the land. I was moved by such beliefs when I began research in western India, examining the experience of a...

    • 8 Caribbean Environmentalism: An Ambiguous Discourse
      (pp. 225-256)
      Barbara Deutsch Lynch

      Two 1992 media events, the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro and the Quincentennial of Columbus’s landfall in Hispaniola, revealed with unusual clarity thatenvironment(the physical lands ape, its biota, and its landforms) andenvironmentalism(awareness of, concern for, and action in the name of the environment) are cultural constructions subject to conflicting interpretations and that control over these interpretations is at the heart of contemporary political struggle in Latin America and the Caribbean.

      The political, even cognitive, distance between UNCED and the Global Forum (and the difficulties in forging consensus on specific issues...

  8. Part III Constructing Rurality

    • 9 Consuming Images: Making and Marketing Vermont as Distinctive Rural Place
      (pp. 259-278)
      C. Clare Hinrichs

      Instrumental ways of seeing Vermont have long shaped the construction and presentation of Vermont as rural place. The images and narratives surrounding this small New England state brim with pastoral charm, small town tranquillity, Yankee resourcefulness and, of course, natural beauty. Indeed, such representations of Vermont have been so widely and vigorously disseminated that they are easily evoked by the simple utterance of its name. In almost metonymic fashion, to speak of Vermont is to conjure up a broader vision of balanced, beneficent rurality. Yet while the name “Vermont” may signify a generic rurality, it also confers the specificity of...

    • 10 Real Villages: National Narratives of Rural Development
      (pp. 279-302)
      Peter Vandergeest

      In the literature and practice of rural development, both development and the village are linked to the nation. Development economists and comparative sociologists have made terms such as the “national economy,” “Gross National Product,” and the “national bourgeoisie” their staples. World Bank reports, United Nations reports, and cross-national studies all take the nation-state as the basic unit.

      The link between rurality and the nation is indicated by the dual meaning of the word “country”: rural areas , and nation. In many countries the real nation is often identified with rural villages. Thus in Thailand, one often hears that the “real”...

    • 11 Gendered Memory: Constructions of Rurality Among Mexican Transnational Migrants
      (pp. 303-330)
      Luin Goldring

      In this chapter I explore the gendering of rurality through a discussion of how transnational migrant women and men from Mexico remember and describe their village of origin. Leaving a rural area for an urban setting provides people with the personal experience of living in two contrasting worlds. When the urban destination is also in another country, the move is likely to involve other contextual changes, for example, in the dominant national and civic cultures, language, racial ideologies, and gender ideologies. Migrants’ memories and portrayals of their place of origin offer another perspective on conceptions of rurality. I argue that...

  9. About the Contributors
    (pp. 333-334)
  10. Index
    (pp. 335-346)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 347-347)