Exploring the Art-Science-Sustainability nexus with poetic analysis

This was the title of the workshop I attended last Friday at the University of Vic with María Fernández Giménez, from the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship at the Colorado State University. María is collaborating with different projects at the Chair on Agroecology at the University of Vic dealing with shepherds, traditional knowledge and adaptation to climate change, which are also exploring new ways of scientific communication using arts.

In the seminar, assistants shared their views and experiences on poetic analysis, defined by María Fernándex as one facet of the emerging field of arts-based inquiry through which social science researchers use artistic expression, including literature, visual art and perfomance throughout the research process. Poetic analysis can take several different forms:

a) representation of data in poetic form, in which the researcher creates poems from interview transcripts or other primary texts. In this form, poems are a means of data reduction, similar to other qualitative data analysis approaches;

b) poetry as a means of enquiry, where the researcher analyses poems (created by the researcher or a research subject) to identify themes, and reveal meaning and emotion; and

c) ethnographic poetry, in which the researcher writes ethnography or research results as poetry.

The workshop was attended by researchers working on agroecology, climate change and education (especially focused on videos, music and theater), and after a presentation given by María on different researches using poetry both as a research and communication tool, we did a practical exercise composing a poem using either interview quotations or by scientific articles. I enjoyed it a lot, and I found it especially interesting to read and listen to the different poems we wrote all inspired by the same original text.

“Resistance is Fertile! On Being Sons and Daughters of Soil”

Installation artwork by Bright Uguchukwe titled acid rain

Two weeks ago i attended a workshop in Cape Town called Resistance is Fertile! On Being Sons and Daughters of Soil. This was the beginning of an ongoing project that will culminate in a book on people and soils in the African Anthropocene that will be edited by Lesley Green, Nikiwe Solomon and Virginia MacKenny and has come to being through the Environmental Humanities South Program at UCT. the project has support from National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences and the National Research Foundation, part of a collaboration with Vegkop Farm in the Phillippi Horticultural Area of Cape Town.

The project aims to explore issues concerning relationships with soil, land and life that “traverse both nature and society” and which are important in the context of the global south and on the African Context. It aims to develop a scholarship and group of people interested in finding ‘new’ ways of relating to, reading, and thinking about the future of landscapes in the South. This is vital where soils, land and landscapes have for so long been bound up, regulated and managed in ways that carry on colonial legacies and injustices.

The project brings together an interdisciplinary group of artists, farmers, academics who are working widely in ways connected to this theme. Leading up to the publishing of the book,  the group will come together periodically  and workshop ideas and concepts that run through the various work people are doing.

At the workshop we listened to presentations from all over Africa as well as form South America. These sessions included a diverse range of presentations which explored relationships with earthworms and microbes to the place of soil in African literature, languages, art and music, to issues of land restitution and acid mine drainage. The workshop stimulated amazing interdisciplinary conversations and material for “thinking with”. It is a truly exciting initiative which will continue to grow over the next two years! It provided a space to explore a number of themes that are very relevant for the agri/cultures project – thinking about how GMOs fit into agri/cultural landscapes in South Africa and the wider continent