Settler colonial agroecologies: Kase W. Wheatley, Beyond Land Grab Settler Agriculture: Toward a Transformative University Agroecology, MA dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 2022


Abstract: As a practice, agroecology can trace its roots to Indigenous and peasant farmer knowledge developed over centuries, yet as a term, agroecology has existed for over ninety years. The term has become institutionalized through universities like the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a Land Grant University where a number of staff and faculty from different disciplinary backgrounds practice agroecology, often in collaborative efforts. At the same time, through efforts like the High Country News exposé Land Grab U, more attention is being brought to the settler colonial origins of Land Grant universities like UW-Madison and the ongoing implications of these origins on research. Through twenty-one interviews with UW-Madison practitioners affiliated with the Agroecology program and others from the university who work with Indigenous communities, I sought to understand 1) perceptions of agroecology, 2) how settler colonialism and Indigeneity are considered in this work, and 3) what a “transformative university agroecology” could look like. Since its inception as an academic program at UW in the early 2000s, agroecology has steadily embraced a more explicit political orientation challenging individual disciplinary boundaries and the broader “productivist” paradigm of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. However, what actually constitutes the broader social context of agroecology was contested among interviewees, especially across disciplinary boundaries. Interviewees from the social sciences and humanities acknowledged settler colonialism more frequently than interviewees However, among all Agroecology program-affiliated interviewees, the depth to which settler colonialism was integrated into their work was generally limited. Interviewees from outside the agroecology program called upon their colleagues to do more and begin these efforts by building relationships based in collaboration.

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