Historical context

We need to educate ourselves on the historical and cultural context in which we as people and institutions operate. Soil science has historically been used as a tool of colonialism, used to suppress opposition to authoritarian regimes and evict and exploit indigenous peoples. This context raises the question of who is really benefiting from our research, and what unexpected (to us) impacts might our work be having?

Further reading

  • The very grounds underlying twentieth-century authoritarian regimes: building soil fertility in Ittalian Libya and the Brazilian Cerrado. Biasillo and Marcio da Silva (2021) DOI: 10.1017/S0010417521000086
  • Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba. Teaiwa (2014)
  • Soil theories: relational, decolonial, inhuman. Tironi, Kearnes, KKrywoszynska, Granjou, and Franciso Salazar. Thinking with Soils: Material Politics and Social Theory (pp. 15-38)

Case studies

Algeria was previously a rich wheat producing nation with high yields and profitable exports, which included France as one of its debtors. However under French colonial rule, farming practices were redesigned to maximise French demand for wheat and vineyards grown to quench their thirst for wine… clearly in opposition to the cultures of a mostly dry Islamic state. Still today more than 50 years after independence Algeria is a poor nation, with low yields, poor soil and lost cultivation practices which had previously informed their wealth and health.

See also