This month, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment publishes its latest journal issue, Tending the Field: Special Issue on Agricultural Anthropology and Robert E. Rhoades. The issue brings together a collection of articles that expand upon Rhoades’s work in agricultural anthropology. Of particular note for readers interested in participatory and collaborative research is Todd A. Crane’s contribution, “Bringing Science and Technology Studies into Agricultural Anthropology: Technology Development as Cultural Encounter between Farmers and Researchers.”
Crane argues for a unique and innovative twist to the “farmer-back-to-farmer” (FB2F) approach in the development of agricultural technologies. In the FB2F approach, outlined by Robert Rhoades and Robert Booth in 1982, the development of technologies begins and ends with farmers, considering their perspectives and considerations in developing technologies, as well as their evaluation, adaptation, and integration of proposed technologies. Crane updates this model by proposing that empirical social research on scientists’ institutional cultures and technical practices additionally be considered in applied agricultural research- a proposal that creatively integrates perspectives from science and technology studies (STS) into the FB2F approach. “Unpacking the “back-to” part of “farmer-back-to-farmer” means acknowledging researchers as stakeholders in the process, just as much as farmers are,” Crane writes. This proposal is of both applied and theoretical interest. As Crane argues:
Conducting empirical social research on scientists’ technical practices, social organization, and institutional norms- alongside the same research done with farmers- will enable a better theorization of how and why certain forms of applied agricultural research work (or do not work), which should in turn enable applied research strategies to become more effective. Furthermore, by including both farmers and research scientists in the analytical lens, we can also better understand the “hows” and “whys” of cultural encounters that occur when farmers and scientists work together (47).