A Political History of Soil: A four-part seminar on soil, war, and the infrastructures of everyday life

Instructor: Stefan R.D. Morales
Dates: Tuesday July 19; Thursday July 21; Tuesday July 26; Thursday July 28
Time: 5:30-7:30 pm
Location: Open Space (510 Fort St., 2nd Floor)

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED to attend this seminar, deadline for registration is Friday, July 15th
Email waywardschool@gmail.com to register

Seminar Cost for Non-Members: $30 (coursepack included)
Seminar Cost for Wayward School Members: Free admission
Find out how more about membership!

In conjunction with Greenw∞sh Cafe Series at Open Space, the Wayward School is pleased to present this four-part seminar on the political history of soil.

To begin considering local and sustainable food seriously one must start with the soil, as soil scientist Grace Gershuny put it. But how can we start with the soil when we carry the historical baggage of plunder and militarization even in our most uplifting talk of agricultural sustainability?

This seminar will explore the problematics of logistics and the way in which these problematics have militarized industrial and sustainable discourses of soil fertility and food production for the past century. This is especially the case whenever soil is considered in terms of security, scarcity, health, nutrition, and ecological demise. Each session will begin with a 30min lecture, followed by 1-2 hour discussion (with a break somewhere in the middle). Participants will be given free reign over a series of readings provided by the instructor, and will be able to read those readings that interest them most. Through the exploration of these primary and secondary texts and materials, the ambiguous origins of industrial and sustainable approaches to soil fertility will be explored, revealing their discontinuous and diffuse beginnings. Participants will also be encouraged to politicize genealogies of soil using theoretical works by Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Jane Bennett (among others) as guides.

Seminar outline:

Tuesday, July 19th – First session. The origins of synthetic fertilizer, or “the Haber-Bosch Process”–the linchpin of 100 years of industrial agriculture–will be explored, revealing the manner in which synthetic fertilizer was a “dual-use technology” that enabled a state to both ‘endlessly’ fertilize the soil and to ‘endlessly’ produce ammunition. The limits of soil fertility were surpassed alongside the limits of ammunition production and the industrial-military-complex was born, with limitless food and bombs as its logistical driving force.

Thursday, July 21st – Second session. The origins of organic composting, or “the Indore Process”–the alternative, its atavism and failures. The research of Sir Albert Howard (professed father of organic agriculture) will be explored, as well as his failed and problematic efforts to politicize organic composting.

Tuesday, July 26th – Third session. Contemporary strands: synthetic fertilizer and “The National Renewable Ammonia Architecture”; organic composting and “Industrial Organic”; and the (re)emergence of an old alternative in the toxic guise of Biosolids. A sliver of the present-day politics of soil in light of the first two sessions’ historical explorations.

Thursday, July 28th – Fourth session. The concept of salubrity—or “the state of the environment and those factors of it which make the improvement of health possible”—will be explored to show the paradoxical nature of sustainability discourse: the human environment that we seek to sustain is itself a tangle of ecologically harmful infrastructures that threaten life. Finally we will look to Masanobu Fukuoka’s work for a critique of industrious agriculture as a more fruitful critique of industrial and sustainable discourses of soil and their dependence on the infrastructures of everyday life.

Fritz Haber and Carl BoschDustbowl Tractor (Life Magazine)Farming and Gardening for Health or Disease by Sir Albert HowardInstructor Bio:

Stefan R.D. Morales is a writer, educator, artist and co-director of The Wayward School. Morales’ work has focused on the political ecology of soil in both a practical and theoretical manner: he has written an MA in political science through Acadia University (Nova Scotia) on the political history of soil, is an avid gardener and composter (both personally, as well as professionally, as a cyclist for Pedal to Petal), and likes to organize discussion and actions around local and sustainable food.  While in the Annapolis Valley, Morales worked with a number of organizations as a program coordinator and research assistant, including the Acadia Community Farm, the Arthur Irving Academy for the Environment, Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, and The Friends of Agriculture in Nova Scotia.

Email us to REGISTER for this workshop

GO TO “Flora & Fauna 2011 Summer Program Overview”–>