quisumbing king, katrina, Spencer D. Wood, Jess Gilbert, and Marilyn Sinkewicz. Forthcoming. “Black Agrarianism: The Significance of African American Land Ownership in the Rural South,” Rural Sociology.
Agrarianism is important in the American mythos. Land represents both a set of values and a store of wealth. In this paper, we ask how land matters in the lives of rural, Southern, Black farmland owners. Drawing on thirty-four interviews, we argue that, since the end of slavery, land has continued to operate as a site of racialized exclusion. Local white elites limit Black farmers’ access to land ownership through discriminatory lending practices. At the same time, Black farmland owners articulate an ethos in which land is a source of freedom, pride, and belonging. This we term Black agrarianism. They cultivate resistance to the legacies of slavery and sharecropping and contemporary practices of social closure. These Black farmland owners, then, view land as protection from white domination. Thus, we demonstrate how landownership is a site for the recreation of racial hierarchy in the contemporary period whilst also offering the potential for resistance and emancipation.
quisumbing king, katrina. 2016. “Striving for Sacred: Negotiating the Tensions of Sustainable Agriculture,” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 45(4): 396–418.
This essay is an account of how young people, deeply committed to sustainability, struggle to live according to their beliefs. In light of a growing population, limited arable land, and possible food shortages, an organization known as Students for Sustainable Agriculture (SSA) responds to the threat of industrial agriculture. These students strive to do what is good for the earth, good for their bodies, and good for their community. They do so by revering food and creating a set of practices that distinguish them as believers in sustainable agriculture. Still, practical difficulties of everyday life make it difficult for them to live by the rules they create. As students living in a wealthy country, contending with environmental degradation, SSA’ers attempt to negotiate their moral commitments with what they can effectually realize. To align their practices with their articulated morals, SSA’ers make alternative consumption choices. Like others who struggle to live according to a set of principles that run counter to what is easy and convenient, these students strive to live true to their beliefs. They try to avoid losses in moral strength, and they repent for situations in which their actions contradict the rules that govern their moral world.