Birth of the Sleepless Land: The Arrival of the Sugar Beet and Some Ethnological Observations on the Steam Plough and its Fossil Mode of Operation in Scandinavian Agriculture ca. 1880

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Abstract

In this paper, I track the arrival of the sugar beet in Scandinavia and explore the technical changes, ecological implications and new social arrangements that followed in its wake. Based on ethnographic records and other historical material dealing with agricultural practices, I argue that an ethnological view that takes the agrarian landscape and the organisation of social life together as one analytical totality may be useful for addressing an important question: What are the implications in everyday life of an energy transition into—and out of—fossil-fuelled food production? The analysis demonstrates that the sug-ar beet arrived along with fossil fuels, steam ploughing, commercial fertiliser, migrant labour and agricultural consultants in a large infrastructural complex that significantly impacted the landscape. These material elements mirrored the historical victory of bourgeois industrial logic over peasant forms of life whose ecological cornerstone was the fallow land. Agricultural land became sleepless in the Anthropocene—and rural life became fossilised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-140
Number of pages33
JournalEthnologia Fennica
Volume50
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jun 8

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ethnology
  • Social Anthropology

Free keywords

  • Black Transition
  • Cultural Landscapes
  • Ecological Boundaries
  • Fossil People
  • Modes of Operation
  • Sleepless Land
  • Steam Plough
  • Sugar Beets

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