Cultivating transgression: Young organic farmers in Japan
From the point of view of elder organic farmers in Japan, younger farmers are not supporting the pure principles of the original organic movement as they consort with the market, the government, consumers, and conventional farmers in new ways. Instead, younger farmers are themselves consumers, concerned with identity and lifestyle, acting within a neoliberal context of governance by subjectivity. In this presentation, Nancy Rosenberger uses her ethnographic investigations of the lives of organic farmers in Japan to explore shifts from cultures of resistance to a different politics, one of positive engagement that may be better called transgressive: embodied, performative, place-based, self-oriented, and rhizomatic. Interviews show that younger farmers value their own quality of life, adequate livelihood, and their rural communities as well as nature and non-commodified relations with soil, food and humans. Those with fields contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima disaster claim that the sudden uncertainties they face and innovate through form the harbingers of change for all of Japan. Young organic farmers enact roots that are both residual and emergent; rhizomes that reach outside rural communities and transgress prescribed binaries; aesthetics of non-alienated selves; and creative performativity in markets. By exploring writings on new social movements, the performativity of power, and processes of everyday lifeworlds within neoliberal capitalism, Rosenberger sheds light on the process of how change is occurring in alternative food systems, Japan, and our contemporary world.
Nancy Rosenberger received her PhD from University of Michigan and is a Professor of Anthropology at Oregon State University. Her research interests bridge food and agriculture, work, and gender in the context of global development, cultural uncertainty, and resistance. She is the author of such recent works as Dilemmas of Adulthood: Japanese Women and the Nuances of Long-term Resistance; Seeking Food Rights: Nation, Inequality and Repression in Uzbekistan; and a 2014 Ethnos article entitled ”Japanese Organic Farmers: Strategies of Uncertainty after the Fukushima Disaster.”