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01 March 2022 16:00-17:00
Christ Church Library, Upper Floor

Contestations in Land and Agriculture: Historical and Geopolitical Case-Studies (Seminar 3)

The Laudato Si' Research Institute and the McDonald Centre are jointly hosting a seminar series analysing contemporary and historic land contestations from the perspective of political philosophy, theology, ethics, and international development.

Seminar 3 - with Dr Amanda Power

Title: Medieval Rationalities and Modern Moralities of Land Use

Speaker: Dr Amanda Power, History, University of Oxford

About: In Rome’s aftermath, monks and warlords hungry for land and resources fought for dominion in the regions to the north and east of the old imperial heartlands. They wrote of their ambition to tame the populations and ecologies of these ‘pagan’ wildernesses in a virtuous language of agricultural productivity. They presented themselves as workers in the field, rooting out indigenous plants, ploughing up the exposed earth, seeding it with the monocrop of Christian doctrine, and labouring for a great harvest of souls to enrich the granary of the Lord.

In this seminar, Dr Power will show how, in the centuries that followed, metaphor accompanied reality as forests were destroyed, wetlands drained, and ‘converted’ populations tied to agricultural labour. Military conquest was often justified on the grounds that the inhabitants of desired regions were unenlightened, idle, and not engaging in recognised forms of agriculture. These practices of governance of land and people, and their legitimising metaphors, were carried around the globe by European colonialists. Even now, ‘rational’ land-use seems inextricable from this system of value, and for many people, rewilding, or even using organic, sustainable approaches to farming, such as permaculture or agroforestry, is tantamount to a surrender of western and civilizational standards.

Dr Power will argue that it is a matter of urgency to disentangle contemporary understandings of rational land use from the historical shadow of these moralities of extractive governance.

To attend, please RSVP to: yingying.jiang@campion.ox.ac.uk