From Community to Consumption: New and Classical Themes in Rural Sociological Research: Volume 16


Table of contents

(23 chapters)

This edited book contains a selection of papers that were originally presented at the XII World Congress of Rural Sociology held in Goyang, South Korea, in July 2008. Contrary to the case of conference proceedings, this volume includes papers that underwent a peer review process and, therefore, possess the quality of finished research manuscripts. The idea of publishing a selection of the most significant papers read at the 2008 World Congress stems from the desire to share the wealth of research presented at the conference with interested individuals who could not attend the event. Additionally, this will be the first of a series of volumes containing the most salient works presented at world congresses and reflecting the research characterizing contemporary rural sociology. As this sociological sub-discipline evolves along with society and the rural world, it appears of paramount importance to make salient research available to the international scientific community.

Changing conditions for farming force farmers to search for new ways to organize agricultural production. In dairy farming, households experience long working hours, inconvenient working conditions, and low incomes. Dairy markets are beleaguered by overproduction, low prices on staple dairy products, and low return to labor and capital. This structural squeeze, which is aggravated by quick technological changes and the globalization of markets, is negotiated in various ways by dairy farmers in different agricultural regimes. A recent coping strategy for dairy farmers in Norway has been joint farming, a process whereby two, three, or even more farmers establish a joint company to merge their resources and work together. These joint farmers enjoy more leisure time, greater security in case of illness, and improved work environments. Why is joint farming so successful in Norway? One main explanation is the difference between agricultural regimes, which places the Norwegian dairy farmer in a privileged position when it comes to building coping capacity.

In recent years, small farmers have been coming together more and more in networks and organizations, joining forces to resist the squeeze process that they are being subjected to in a system dominated by agribusiness. In alliance often with consumers and other actors concerned with issues of quality food, the environment, and social justice, these farmers are interested in developing alternative forms of production and consumption. These farmers, who are struggling to achieve self-reproduction and the establishment of sustainable agro-food systems, appear to be mainly concerned with the control of resources. The spread of this kind of experience evokes the issue of repeasantization. In this chapter, I use the case of the French association Réseau Semences Paysannes (RSP) to highlight some recent innovations in alternative agro-food models, as well as paths of research and rural development emerging within this framework.

In Japan, since an outbreak of mass food poisoning in 2000, consumer interest in food safety and security has increased, focusing on activities such as Chisan-Chishō (Local Production, Local Consumption), Slow Food, and LOHAS. Activities related to food safety and security in Japan have a strong local character, are moving toward industrialization, are not bound by tradition, and can be said to be activities in pursuit of alternative forms of consumption and development. In Japan, most supporters of Slow Food, LOHAS, and Chisan-Chishō have been women. In societies where production is important, consumption has been entrusted to women. Therefore, activities related to food safety and security are tied to social reform with women in central roles. Receiving social recognition, these activities develop business opportunities, move toward globalized industrialization, and, in a gendered society centered on men, become activities with men in central positions. Gender in the area of food does not allow women to take part in production and distribution and is moving to exclude women. To secure women's position in food, it is necessary to industrialize according to women's ways such as maintaining the viewpoint of living nature, mutual support, collective leadership, and networking.

This chapter examines the meaning and expected role of subsistence production in contemporary Japan through an overview of national trends and a case study from the Ashigara region. With the expansion of the market economy, subsistence production has become marginalized in Japan. Women operated under the double burden of economic and subsistence activities, but with the increased importance of economic activities the social status of subsistence activities decreased. Nowadays, subsistence production is mainly carried out by elderly women. Owing to its decreased economic importance, food processing became “gendered” as a “women's hobby” rather than a household necessity. Resources and information are shared with neighbors, relatives, and friends, and function as an important medium for communication. Subsistence production supplies use value, and through it, one can learn the limitation and abundance of nature, as well as the extent of our wants, which capitalism has excessively enlarged. Since individual profit is not sought, resources and information can be shared, strengthening social networks and social security. Through inclusive participation of citizens regardless of occupation, sex, or age, one will rediscover the meaning of work and living together.

The organizational structure of the modern poultry industry that developed in the US South has been advanced as the future model of agriculture and agro-industrial globalization. This “Southern Model” characterized by asymmetrical power relationships between the integrating firms and production growers and reliance on informal labor patterns in processing is being diffused to other countries. Research on the diffusion of this model deserves special attention from those concerned with the socio-economic implications of the globalization of the agri-food system. This chapter first provides an overview of the industrialization of the poultry industry in the United States, then documents the diffusion of this model globally and in Mexico through the activities of Tyson Foods, Inc. and Pilgrim's Pride, Inc. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the relationship between neoliberal restructuring in Mexico and the globalization of the poultry industry.

The extremely low fertility of European society is today one of the most important policy and scientific topics due to its adverse effect on increasing aging of the population. Since extant research has evidenced a huge complexity of below replacement fertility, it cannot be satisfactorily explained on the basis of a single pattern. Each country can therefore contribute through specific case studies to a better overall understanding of this phenomenon. This chapter presents the results of research into the fertility behavior of farm population, the group with the highest fertility rate in Slovenia. They reveal that the fertility of farm population is not based on a higher respect for family norms and related values, as some critics of contemporary life patterns of the young generation might suppose. The results indicate that it is more probable that motivation for a higher number of children among the farm population derives from their social context; the specific social relations of ‘gift exchange’ that help to maintain the particular nature of ensuring their everyday livelihoods.

The late incorporation of Lao PDR in the globalized age as an agricultural producer and exporter has been created through the process of “peasantization” and restructuring of agricultural upland productive area. The chapter discusses the role of the state and cross-border markets through contract farming in three villages in northern Lao PDR. Contrary to the general belief that economic globalization will result in the weakening of the state, the chapter argues that the state still has a significant role to play. Being late in the corporation into the world market, the changes that take place become very intense.

This chapter explores social representative groups as a medium to study “rural” meaning in Ireland. In research terms, the concept of “rurality” is increasingly debated, its existence questioned, and approaches to establish conceptual and methodological boundaries continuously challenged. By studying the language of social representative group leaders, it is argued in this chapter that the “rural” can be fluidly explored through its expression. Through a theme-based deconstruction of interviews with group leaders, I explore the expression of loss in Irish dialogue and its implication on “rural” meaning.

The community can be considered as an empirical category of thought and hope. This is how various understandings of real, imagined, invented, local, and global communities are created. Sociological studies give meaning to this heuristic category and its historical representations and its values centered around a world of proximity, primordial loyalties, solidarity, face-to-face communication, production, reproduction, knowledge, and environmental preservation. Community equally expresses the existence of a territory where populations reproduce; a place for a convivial exchange among generations, traditions, and respect to cultural heritages and ethnic boundaries. The rural community is seen as the guardian of present and past histories of groups identified by struggles for subsistence, resistance, and celebration of memories from ancestors. Community provides the foundation for sociability and sustainability. In the context of a fluxional, risky, and individualized society, community members are becoming more vulnerable as their pleas for solidarity and safety are unheard. Although the rural community described here has been an object of speculation and violence that affect our world, the concept of community is still desired. Accordingly, its relevance is renewed for a prosperous rural future in a globalizing world.

Non-Anglo-Celtic immigrants have transformed Australian rural landscape through the construction of public and private spaces expressing their cultural heritage. These sites can also significantly impact the dynamics of social cohesion and intercultural relations in multicultural rural communities. This chapter links heritage and multiculturalism in rural settings and explores the potential role of the sites built by rural ethnic minorities in facilitating intra- and intergroup social networks. The chapter is divided into two parts. The first part briefly explores the literature on immigration and heritage, place, belonging and social cohesion, and the relationship between social capital and the built environment. The second part outlines preliminary empirical findings from Griffith in New South Wales. Using the concepts of intercultural dialogue and bonding and bridging social capital, the chapter explores the role of the places built by Italian immigrants in facilitating social networks and improved relations within and between Griffith's ethnic communities.

This chapter explores how the retiring Japanese “baby boomer” generation is rethinking the role of later life and potentially provides a new future for depopulated areas in rural Japan. Drawing on a case study of the Hokkaido prefecture, the chapter highlights three points. First, the baby boomer generation in Japan has very different ideas about the meaning of later life, and the spatial implications of these may present opportunities for regeneration. Secondly, hard-pressed rural local authorities are looking to exploit these opportunities to build a new socioeconomic base from the needs and aspirations of older people. Third, the chapter questions what kind of rural futures might be built.

Farmers’ markets in Japan have different characteristics from those in Europe and America. Although the amount of each farmer's sales profit is small, Japanese farmers’ markets have proved to be beneficial for Japanese farmers by providing them with nonmonetary benefits that cannot otherwise be gained from the modern large-scale farm products circulation. It also functions as the place of the rehabilitation of certain foods and products “forgotten” in modern circulation, and cases with old fashioned “grapes” and “eggplants” are those examples. Point of Sale (POS) systems, which were thought the symbol of modernized circulation, however, have been suggested to function as the device for communicating with farmers and consumers. Because the studies of Japanese farmers’ markets are approved to the origin of various logics, the researchers were not able to establish the united theory. However, it should be noted that Japanese farmers’ markets have established a firm position in the local food chain and will continue to function as a valuable channel for supporting sustainable agriculture.

Direct farmer–consumer relationships have been mostly described in the Western world. They are reviewed as efficient forms of resistance to global distribution chains, in particular as regards farmer incomes, consumer trust in product safety, and solidarity between farmers and consumers. Research was carried out in Vietnam to measure the importance of this type of sales in the vegetable sector and how farmers and consumers perceive it relative to other forms of supply. Consumer surveys and focus groups were conducted as well as inventories of vegetable retail point of sales and a case study of a farmer group based on in-depth interviews with group leaders. Consumers buying directly from farmers desire product freshness and the ability to receive specific information relative to product origin and safety. Farmers value direct retail sales because it enables higher incomes. Yet, only the wealthiest farmers have access to this type of sales as it requires renting their own outlet shops or market stalls. Direct farmer to consumer sales in Vietnam may be viewed as a first step toward an interpersonal food distribution system providing an alternative to faceless mass chain-market distribution.

The main purpose of this study is to analyze the current situation and the prospects of the food distribution system as a result of the State participation in this system by the state firms called Mercal and PDVal. As a mean to achieve this objective, it was necessary to review, as a starting point, the historical situation in which these Venezuelan state firms appeared. Next, the transformations in that distribution system are studied and an interpretation of the Mercal phenomenon is proposed. Furthermore, the potential implications and prospects of the State participation in food distribution to urban areas are explained. Finally, an analysis of the probable implications of this participation upon the Venezuelan agricultural and food sector was conducted.

This chapter analyzes the building of environmental governance in two post-socialist countries of Southeastern Europe, Albania, and Croatia, with a focus on forest policy reforms. After the end of the socialist era, the countries have rapidly adopted new policies and legislation directed at sustainable forest management. The main driver of policy reform is the European and international influence. Yet the developments in the countries cannot be adequately described as a mere adoption of Western-style methods and solutions, as suggested in arguments on the catch-up development of transition states. The capacities needed in post-socialist countries to deal with environmental issues differ from those in industrial societies. On the contrary, there is no essentialistic link between environmental problems and solutions to these problems in post-socialist countries. The outline of the policy reforms in Croatia and Albania reveals very different approaches to sustainable forest management and different paths in the post-socialist transition process. It is argued that capacity development in forestry in transition states needs to be based on country-specific socio-political, economic, and cultural features to be successful.

To counteract low water productivity in many developing countries, international donors promote community-based management. This practice was meant to replace top-down governmental approaches. In Ghana, the water sector came under review in the 1990s. Institutions have been decentralized, and management tasks transferred to communities, associations, and private-sector entities. While assigning ownership and responsibilities to communities is feasible for rural water management, the chapter shows that policy makers and practitioners tend to ignore the historical background of existing structures and antagonisms of traditional and present management systems. Implementation strategies are therefore prone to failure. The chapter analyzes the administrative history of water governance in Ghana and related problems to date. The case study on fisheries management has its setting in the Upper East Region of Ghana, where people use reservoirs to improve their livelihoods through irrigation, cattle watering, and fisheries. In the course of rehabilitation projects, rights and responsibilities of management have been handed over to user groups or associations and village committees. Clashing traditional, governmental, and participatory management strategies overtax communities to cope with responsibilities. Conflicts, mistrust, and overexploitation are some of the consequences.

From a post-colonial feminist perspective, this chapter explores how themes of gender and ethnicity combine to produce an embodied narrative of the everyday lived experience of one immigrant woman in a small country town. Her story was told to me as part of an interpretive study via a face to face interview. Her personal history of trauma and dislocation influenced by the wider cultural frameworks and expectations that inform her way of doing gender and ethnicity shape the way she experiences the pleasures and pains of a rural life. In this rural place, she finds that her embodied narrative does not conform to the set of socially constructed meanings that lead to inclusion so her body is reconstructed as “other” and as such is subjected to covert and overt practices that exclude and marginalize her. The discussion is situated within the field of rural studies as the settlement of immigrant women in rural places is seen as a process of social restructuring contextualized and influenced by the social and cultural meanings attached to those places.

After World War II, many types of organizations were established in rural areas and that enabled women farmers to form networks. Most of these organizations, however, were clearly divided into those for women and those for men: a situation that still currently persists. Since the 1980s, the networking of women farmers for the development of personal networks increased and some nationwide network organizations were established. Through an analysis of the case of the “Rural Heroines Exciting Network” – one of the first networks of Japanese women farmers – the chapter points out the significance of networking. Networking is relevant because (1) it allows women to connect among themselves and as individuals with the outside world. In this way, women gain confidence. (2) Through the network, members get expressive support and information. (3) The common values at the network level play a balancing role in regard to the norms dominant at the local community. Those characteristics have some similarities with those of the “women in agriculture” movement that gained popularity in 1990s worldwide.

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Book series
Research in Rural Sociology and Development
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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