On Being Convivial

A Dialogue on Being a Young Regenerative Farmer in the European Countryside

Keynote Address by Yanniek Schoonhoven

Convivality through Peatlands

Bethany Copsey and Ireen van Dolderen from RE-PEAT host this collective brainstorm session at the intersection of conviviality and peatlands. They invite participants to participate in a short brainstorm session by clicking here

Thanks to Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt for acting as the Discussant for Stream 1.  Kuntala's responses have been posted on the brainstorm session to start the conversation.

Day 6, Stream 2

The Urban Convivial Panel Presentations

Designing convivial spaces
Edward H. Huijbens
Wageningen University & Research

Wild Sargasso Sea: Social labor, conviviality and the future of unions
Brandon Hunter-Pazzara
Princeton University

Volunteer participation in urban agriculture: How conviviality helps to drive change
Daniel Kelly
University of Auckland

Thanks to Max Ajl and Matthew Henry for acting as Discussants for The Urban Convivial Panel. Read Max's written comments to presenters here and listen to Matthew's responses to each of the presenters below.

Response to Huijbens

Response to Kelly

Response to Hunter-Pazzara

To respond to the Presentations, leave a reply in the comments section below.

If you would like to include an audio or visual reply, email this to masseyperc@gmail.com before October 9.

The Chair for this panel is Trisia Farrelly

Comments 12

  1. Nau mai haere mai (welcome) to this session on ‘Being Convivial’.

    I am Trisia Farrelly, Co-Director of PERC. It is a pleasure to Chair this wonderful session and to contribute to PERC’s fourth free, nearly carbon neutral, international, multidisciplinary, fully online conference (Phew! What a mouthful!). Sita and Serena have, once again, organised an exciting line-up of thinkers and practitioners to speak to this theme in this panel. I have posed some questions/provocations for your consideration to get the conversation started. As requested by the convenors in the opening session, please do participate in these ongoing conversations throughout the conference as your engagement is what really does bring the conference theme to life.

    Please feel free to engage in any or all these questions and provocations or to start a whole new conversation if you prefer!

    Keynote address by Yanniek Schoonhoven on regenerative farming, La Junquera, Spain:

    Yanniek expressed a key concern as the lack of intergenerational farming, stating that if people do not inherit or farm on the land, this leads to over-exploitation of the land and short-term thinking dominates. She also notes that land is taken a lot better care of when people are there. This second point particularly struck me.

    In your experience, under what conditions (i.e., political, cultural, ecological, and economic context include perhaps land ownership/use rights and land use) is land taken care of better when people are there?

    Yanniek also urged consumers to look at what you buy as demand will support regenerative farming practices and sustainable products.
    What freedom of information/ecolabeling information do we need to make informed consumer choices and who and what has the potential to support freedom of information?

    Interactive session: Bethany Copsey and Ireen van Dolderen from RE-PEAT . Conviviality through Peatlands:

    What a wonderful youth-lead initiative! This interactive session asks us to use our imagination to think about peatlands including how we with peatlands. There are plenty of great questions from Bethany and Ireen here – please check this out and contribute to the discussion.

    Stream 2: The Urban Convivial Panel Presentations

    Designing convivial spaces – Edward H. Huijbens:

    This presentation also asks as to draw on our imagination to consider a radical hospitality through urban design for conviviality. Huijbens proposes the design of green infrastructure in urban spaces which supports conviviality while warning that this should not become part of the monetization processes of the growth economy. How do you think this might be achieved?

    Volunteer participation in urban agriculture: How conviviality helps to drive change – Daniel Kelly:

    Kelly discusses Organic Market Garden (OMG) a regenerative organic urban farm in Auckland City, Aotearoa New Zealand (CSA model). OMG is based on ‘biology first’ principles of poly cropping, no till,and organic inputs. OMG emerged out of ‘For the Love of Bees’ initiative.

    As a new materialist, I particularly enjoyed Kelly’s reference to the human-non-human conviviality underpinning the garden’s commitment to countering neoliberal industrial colonial modernity, separation, and individuality and a move toward collectivism , inter-relationality, and the processual.

    Volunteers are crucial to OMG’s success. Bearing in mind Kelly’s emphases human-non-human/non-human-non-human/human-human, my question for you to consider is this: In your experience, what is the key to the success of sustainable voluntary work? What are some key barriers you seen or experienced? How might those barriers be overcome?

    In addition to this, you may wish to consider how government policies subsidise the environmental externalities of other forms of agriculture before considering how small scale regenerative organic farmers could be better supported by government?

    Wild Sargasso Sea – Brandon Hunter-Pazzara
    Hunter-Pazzara’s presentation covers a broad field from global and national policy and legislation, unions, climate change resilience and adaptation, drug cartels, historical ecologies, and also raises questions concerning voluntary labour, responsibility, and private and public land use to name a few.

    Hunter-Pazzara opens up the presentation by discussing a preference for ‘solidarity’ over ‘conviviality’. I would love to know your response to this.

    The case presented is an excellent example to describe why disaster and climate change anthropologists insist that ‘disasters’ are less about ecological cause than they are about historical patterns of socioecological ‘vulnerability’. Thus, they can be approached as a lens for the complex interactions of physical, biological, and sociocultural systems. As Hunter Pazzara notes, such disasters highlight and intensify pre-existing socioecological fissures.

    Hunter-Pazzara closes with a comment about the future of work and how anthropologists tend to ignore those who make a living from extraction – passing them off as complicit to global capitalism or subordinate other systems of knowledge, practices, and innovations. So my question here is, how important is it that we focus our attention on extractivist practices (either studying up or studying down)? If you are particularly interested the political ecologies of extraction, you may like to dip into PERC’s “Extraction” conference on this website.

    Well, I think that is more than enough to start this conversation going. I am looking forward to your comments here once you have had the opportunity to view the presentations – and contribute to the RE-PEAT interactive session.



  2. First and foremost I would like to thank you all and the organisers for a wonderful, engaging and innovative way of conferencing. I have now for a week started every day with watching presentations and tried to contribute and pitch in as possible and when I thought I could contribute. Now on this final day my own presentation is up and already has been engaged with and questions posed by Trisia and Matthew. Taking these in turn;

    – Trisia asks how green infrastructure developed can achieve conviviality. Here indeed the case is open and on-going and I would like to explore examples that could illustrate this. But the principles for green infrastructure for conviviality need to be the point of departure and these have been framed and exemplified in numerous presentations in this conference. To pick up on the presentation by Daniel, as he quoted Rose on what facilitates and ontology of connectedness. Making open spaces that prioritize socializing and can make for multispecies encounters. Here I could envision ways in which in these spaces those present could learn from trees and flowers that are there through a multitudes of means of allowing for their expressions, like the Tweeting tree on the WUR campus, detailing its own water and evapotranspiration balance. Prioritizing storytelling and making spaces and what makes for them come alive for those present. These are indeed just thoughts, but I also believe there are so many existing examples in cities all over the world that are worth exploring to move against the grain of how our cities are becoming ever more rigid and capitalised upon. One recent book that I will engage with is here: https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520382244/fragments-of-the-city

    2. As to Matthew he poses the pertinent question of how to allow the stranger meaningful participation in remaking places. This is indeed the core of my provocation, i.e. reconceiving the tourist as a stranger to be welcomed and one that can enter into reciprocal relationships with people and places. For this there needs to be a reorienting of the tourist mindset as well as that of the host. The tourist needs to be ready to enter into a reciprocal relation of giving back, spending time and engage. So we need to move from the prevailing imagining of places as spectacles to be consumed and see them in the multiplicity, as composed of the ‘fragments’ Colin talks about in his book? Then we need to identify the places and people who want to welcome the other and enter into that relationship. At current I am exploring the ways in which Amsterdam in its reimagining of its tourism is maybe on a pathway to this. So somewhat on-going again, but indeed a highly relevant questions which Matthew rightly poses to all presenters and cases here presented.

    My warmest greetings and thanks

  3. Thanks to both Max Ajl and Matthew Henry for your generous engagements with what is still very much a work in progress. Lots to reflect on moving forward!

    One thing that struck me what that both of you made reference to my use of modernity as a way to describe the problematic and disconnected reality that alternative food initiatives seek to replace.. Henry referred to Campbell’s discussion of the modernist farm, and Latour’s ‘We Have Never Been Modern’, suggesting or explaining that the impurity and entanglement that defines our lives has always been at odds with the fixed and predetermined categories of modernity: nature v. society, market v. state and so on. However, while Ajl agreed with the broad critique of capitalism my use of modernity came up in, he said “I think it’s worth holding onto the value of modernity, meaning, I think, the rise of potentially universal forms of knowledge, on the epistemic plain, braided with systemic social interdependence on the material plain.” Ajl raised this in the context of a broader critique, namely that the way we frame a problem has a significant impact on how try to address that problem. I think this is an important, and often under-appreciated point, so wanted to give it some time here and see if there’s anything others have to add 🙂

    Firstly, I acknowledge the importance of clarity with respect to using terms like ‘modernity’, so probably should have done a better job of defining it. In my use, I draw on thinkers such as Anna Tsing (who critiques the factory logic of universal, interchangeable and thus replaceable plantation ‘units’ for the negative impact they have on the particular places and peoples where they are imposed) and Walter Mignolio (who argues the progress we associate with modernity has always had a ‘dark side’, namely its emergence from the violence of colonisation, with which it is inescapably linked). But in my reading the term is best defined by the work of Vanessa Andreotti and the collective Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures, for example: https://journals.oslomet.no/index.php/nordiccie/article/view/3518
    Again, this points out tight links between colonisation and modernity, especially with respect to epistemology and ontology.

    I agree with Ajl’s point that colonisation is about denying political sovereignty, and that this plays out in the unequal power relations between global north and south (e.g., in the food system), and also internally within the ‘north’, for example, via patriarchy and class distinctions that keep many from engaging with the alternative food work of urban farms. From this starting point, we end up, as Ajl points out, needing to address the “structural forces in the world [that] prevent difference” – a point echoed by Raj Patel (2009) with respect to food sovereignty, echoing Arendt herself: “To make the right to shape food policy meaningful is to require that everyone be able substantively to engage with those policies. But the prerequisites for this are a society in which the equality-distorting effects of sexism, patriarchy, racism, and class power have been eradicated.”

    So far so good – efforts towards utopia are a powerful way to bind people and movements. But where does this leave us in the day to day? I raise this not as a cynic, but rather in the spirit Ajl suggests of discussing “critical questions of transition”. If part of modernity we wish to leave is its insistence on purity and divisions, then we can simultaneously accept Ajl’s (very valid) points about the privilege that colours efforts towards food system change in the global north, not the least of which are the material flows and time liberated by extraction elsewhere, and also still celebrate and encourage more efforts towards difference by those who hold this privilege, however imperfect they may be. In this, Henry’s point around succession is illustrative. Do these alternative initiatives need to be complete, long-standing, a ‘permanent’ agriculture? The top-down imposition of socialist law? Does the burden of ‘solving’ colonisation really fall on each community garden? Or are we better to accept their cyclic, world-changing potential, the small cracks in business as usual that they create, however imperfect and impermanent, changing our conditions of possibility just enough that we are also left new, driven on to try something else…

    As Henry pointed out, for projects like OMG, it may be the social networks and education that has the most impact in the long run; nothing is a solution in and of itself. As Ostrom and so many other scholars make clear, efforts towards anti-capitalist life always risk being swallowed by the capitalist networks around them. To really ‘transition’ requires, at least in my understanding, a broader movement and solidarity with the other struggles who challenge capitalism’s singular way to be, scaling up in a fractal way: from one garden, to a network of gardens, to one city, to a network of cities and so on. Somehow, we must simultaneously forgive failings while staying stuck and entangled enough in order to help correct these exclusions; to connect to them and so carry on, prefiguratively, simultaneously big and small.

    In this, a final point from Ajl is illustrative. In my presentation, I conflated extraction and industry. But as Ajl pointed out, the two should remain distinct: industry, meaning production at scale, need not be extractive (making a place poorer, its soils less fertile). Alternative food is full of people valorising the small and local – an understandable kneejerk to a world where big has, for all intents and purposes, also meant extractive. But must the two be linked? Or is that history merely reflective of other aspects of colonial modernity; of the urge to dominate and control; of the hierarchy that has privileges the knowledge and health of [certain] humans above the health of ‘others’ and also our earth?

    Perhaps part of privilege amongst those of us ensconced and vaccinated in the global north is to think bigger than the village, to avoid conflating scale and business with the specific ontopolitics of industrial agri-business, and to explore equitable and convivial ways to ‘regenerate’ beyond our own ‘needs’ and networks.. be they centralised and socialist, or grassroots and bottom up.. If we never were ‘modern’, the intellectual divisions we rally against here have always been imagined, imposed. But ecosystem limits aren’t. And neither, as Ajl points out, are the material inequalities that define the gulf between ‘north’ and ‘south’. To really move forward, we must also in some ways move ‘back’. More hands are required in the soil; re-distribution awaits in the wings…

  4. What an interesting presentation Edward! I am slowly making my way through the different sessions and catching up on the ones I couldn’t view last week. I loved the eclectic selection of ideas and thinking you brought together to envision a radical hospitality at the centre of urban spaces. It reminded me of the ways in which ‘manaakitanga,’ a combination of hospitality, generosity, welcome resides at the centre of Māori centred convivialities, and the protocols for turning a stranger into a guest to whom manaakitanga is extended.

    Hone/Margaret/Pounamu/Hirini would you like to comment?

    Thanks for provoking much food for thought Edward!


    1. Thank you kindly Sita,
      Indeed work in progress and we have formulated one research proposal with landscape architects on this, but did not fly this year. So will plod on doing this. I had heard about manaakitanga, it has for better or worse been appropriated in some of the NZ tourism promotion, but it has resonance with hospitality as practiced by Arctic communities of indigenous peoples which I am more familiar with from my work there, but for 15 years I was based in N Iceland, where I am from. My curiosity now lies in seeing how such reciprocal and generous modes of hospitality can make for urban spaces and the visitor economy and what I am thinking is to carefully analyse the new strategy of the city of Amsterdam for tackling its overtourism challenges. Therein embedding visitors with local communities in active ways seems to be the guiding principle, but as always, the devil is in the details … to be continued

      1. And how does the doughnut economy flagged for Amsterdam to pursue have a bearing on your argument Edward, the limits and exclusions Bram refers to seems to connect with a consideration of planetary limits and boundaries as well!

        1. Now indeed, to what extent is the circular and doughnut rhetoric really breaking with the growth model and how will that link to the boundaries we are facing in terms of the environment of the local and global scales. I will most certainly be interrogating that once this takes shape, thank you

  5. Just a brief comment as I am catching up on the presentations: I really enjoyed Yanniek and Dirk’s keynote conversation and their explicit reference to biodiversity in regenerative agriculture, and also just watched Edwards presentation, which I thoroughly enjoyed. One Q to Ed: how do you envisage putting boundaries to the forces of capital trying to squeeze further profit out of the city, in order to make space for convivial relations? What is the dialectic between these two?

    1. A very good question and would be the core of the research an work to be done. I would see some type of co-governance structure of communities within the city planning corpus, some type of living labs on site to negotiate indeed said dialectics ? … but indeed the big issue

  6. I enjoyed both your presentations Brandon and Daniel, they both connect around questions of labour, an issue that threads through a number of earlier panels and presentations. Here labour intensive modes of small-scale urban food production and a future driven by climate change, making more demands on some labouring bodies, to respond to the accelerating crisis.

    Daniel, the reliance of volunteer labour and the turnover of people involved seems to render an initiative like OMG more precarious, what other kinds of arrangements might need to be developed to sustain it? Yanniek Schoonhoven’s discussion of the village community involved at La Junquera contributing to the labour and sharing the harvest offers one route in a rural context, is the sharing of some of the harvest a possible incentive that could invite more permanent volunteers to continue contributing to OMG?

    Brandon, based on your discussion, what is the role unions can play in a scenario of climate driven contingencies? Is there scope for all that accumulated sargassum to be incorporated into some entrepreneurial venture to make biological fertilisers or some such use, generating other avenues for revenue and new employment possibilites?

    1. Thank you for the question, Sita.

      I think unions can play several important roles. First, they can help ensure that any labor directed towards climate mitigation is treated with dignity. This would be a huge shift from the status quo, where in many cases, especially in the Global South, construction worker unions are either non-existent or especially weak.

      I also think unions have a role to play in strengthening both local and global democracy. Unions are organizations with the capacity to check both state and corporate actors, and it’s this power which is why they remain the most repressed social organization in the world. There’s very little recognition of the amount of money and time spent repressing unions, but one can already see the difference if you look at the corporate world in the United States. Amazon, for instance, did not shy away from posting “Black Lives Matter” on its website and in press releases, but the company fought tooth and nail against a black worker led organizing campaign in Alabama. If given the power, unions can force companies to shift how they think about their bottom line, they can force companies to implement climate mitigation policies they otherwise wouldn’t, and they can work alongside state and international bodies to ensure companies comply with other important obligations to their consumers and the environment.

      Finally, and this is the most important part of my research, I think unions provide a space by which different people laboring together can learn how to get along, how to build a solidarity that is more than just subordinating one’s interests to a common cause. I think this ethical dimension to unions is especially important if we believe, and I believe this, that our capacity to adapt to climate change will mean learning how to listen to and respond to the needs of others.

      How we strengthen organized labor is a huge challenge. I’m not even sure the academy is the ideal place to think about this question, at least in the United States, given how weak labor has become. The academy is often as hostile to organized labor as Amazon and other large corporations, and we see the degree to which the academy continues to rely on exploited labor to work. That’s a problem we need to name and address as forcefully as we’ve tried to address other systemic forms of oppression like racism and sexism. I would also make the case that our strategic path to “decolonizing” the academy or making the academy fall more in line with our social justice ideals happens when faculty and staff have a strong union that can concentrate our collective interests into real power. This means making significant investments in labor studies departments and scholars, integrating organized labor into the management of the academy, and also strengthening staff unions too. We seem very far from that world at the moment, but I think it’s probably our only path forward.

      I note starting in the academy first because I think the path to a broader strengthening of unions around the world happens from below and from above. The below part will be handled by workers, but the above part to me is about challenging the legal architecture of globalization that currently favors capital over labor. That legal architecture has been put together by economists and lawyers both inside and outside of the academy and we need to come to terms with that reality and more forcefully engage those who have intellectually contributed to the weakening of organized labor. I see this struggle as akin to similar calls during this conference to reject attempts by large multinationals to control the debate and policy discussion around agroecology.

      As to whether the seaweed itself has productive uses, that remains unclear. When the crisis first started several years ago, there were attempts to figure out if the seaweed could generate economic benefits so that perhaps a profit motive could get companies invested in clean up efforts. My understanding is that while the seaweed may have some use, the irregularity of the blooms makes it hard to generate a profit from the collection of the material.

      I think the tension of the seaweed is really better understood as a metaphor for the impossibility of the situation we find ourselves in more largely because of climate change. We wish to deal with the second effects of climate change only really to continue to kinds of activities we know are damaging to the climate in the first place. We are laboring for the wrong purposes, but we are structurally stuck in this system until it collapses. That metaphor is just as true with tourism as it is with agriculture as it is with academic labor. The task is not to avoid collapse, that ship has already sailed, but rather to figure out what kinds of work will be needed while the collapse happens. How do we live and work together with some degree of harmony even as the world as we know it comes apart and radically transforms in a way we cannot quite anticipate or imagine?

    2. Thanks for this Sita, the issue of precarity for volunteer driven initiatives is a tough one and in my opinion almost unavoidable given the limitations that both capitalism (e.g., rent) and other commitments (e.g., family) place on our time… as Max Ajl pointed out in his response, to even become a volunteer in this space relies on a range of privileges, so it certainly isn’t a solution in and of itself.

      Without a doubt, there are material incentives different organisations can offer, and some garden produce is a common ‘reward’ for volunteers in the context of urban agriculture. But there is a tension with the alternative economic model a place like OMG seeks to prefigure… while there is sometimes leftover produce volunteers do take home, if all volunteers received produce then there wouldn’t be enough to sell, and the business side (which is in itself something that attracts volunteers) wouldn’t work. This is the achilles heel that the ‘agrarian question’ gets at: if industrial food production relies largely on cheap energy aka the future exploitation of fossil fuels (as well as a range of other contemporary labour exploitations), and this makes food so cheap that those who seek to produce it in alternative ways can’t compete economically, then these alternative producers are forced to find other ‘hacks’… which tend to amount to some combination of public support/funding (often with significant reporting requirements), corporate sponsorship (often for the purposes of greenwash) and/or ‘self-exploitation’ and volunteer labour… of course, education is one ‘exchange’ offered in order to reward this volunteer labour, and I think it’s one that needs more exploration (especially given the tendency, rife in NZ and elsewhere, for expensive permaculture courses and so on where volunteers don’t just pay to learn, but also work on other’s projects…), but as Matthew Henry pointed out, education may also provide a way for the alternative political elements of urban agriculture to transcend the limitation of specific projects.

      An alternative of course is to try and adopt more democratic and cooperative business structures, as Brandon raises. If farming like this takes many hands, then we should look to establish business models that can support this, such as worker’s co-operatives. I’m supportive of these efforts, but sense that they also hit hard economic limits relating to the difficulty of profiting off what is in my opinion a reality where good food is undervalued, to say nothing of all the other economic inequalities that make starting small businesses hard.. and so we come around again to questions of whether food is really best served by the economic market, or whether it should be considered a human right or common good and supported by the state in some form… No easy answers!

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