Hefted to Hill: Valuing the aesthetic & ontological expertise of marginal farming communities
Using an a-disciplinary artistic-research approach, I will explore the potential within contemporary aesthetics and ontology to give voice to hill farmers' and crofter’s embedded ways of knowing about land and nature.
The purpose is to fashion a robust case for having the intellectual, social and cultural value of these sectors recognised by policy-makers, Ministers of State and the general public. The fieldwork will be a place-based co-creation exercise with hill farmers in Co. Durham and crofters on the Isle of Lewis. It will attempt to capture how the values and knowledge inherent in farmers’ daily work are formed and in turn expressed in the landscape and to ascertain how their understandings are attuned to nature and place. As things stand, none of their expertise enters the design, delivery and evaluation of agri-environment schemes. This is a failure requiring an epistemological shift of tectonic proportions. The evidence required to challenge the top-down orthodoxy will result from building trust with the two communities concerned. In advance of gathering the testimony of individuals, recorded out on their land, I will provide each with two days of dry-stone walling, free to them, setting up a convivial exchange relationship that builds goodwill.
The research will aim to be amenable to farming communities and be of use to them in making their case to policy-makers for locally-led agri-environment approaches. This may be about principles and justice but it is also about improving the cost-effectiveness of public spending in the uplands.
Names of Supervisors: Professor Mary Modeen (DJCAD) and Dr Susan Mains (Geography)
Normal Location of PhD Candidate: DJCAD & Geography