Playing development roles: The political ecology of performance in agricultural development

Andrew Flachs, Paul Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Performance is a useful lens through which to analyze agrarian life, as performance illuminates the ways that farmers manage the complex socioecological demands of farm work while participating in social life and in the larger political economy. The dialectic of planning and improvisation in the farm field has produced scholarship at multiple scales of political ecology, including the global ramifications of new technologies or policies, as well as the hyper-local engagements between farmers and fields in the context of modernity and development. Political ecologists are also beginning to understand how affects, such as aspirations and frustrations, influence agriculture by structuring how farmers and other stakeholders make decisions about farms, households, capital, and environments. To understand farm work as a performance is to situate it within particular stages, roles, scripts, and audiences at different scales. The articles in this Special Section ask how farmers have improvised, planned, and performed in response to agroecological challenges, bridging scholarship in political ecology, development studies, and the study of agrarian landscapes through new empirical case studies and theoretical contributions. Agriculture both signals social values and fosters improvisations within farming communities' collective vulnerability to weather and the political economy. We argue that the lens of performance situates the political ecology of agriculture within the constraints of the political economy, the aspirations and frustrations of daily life, and the dialectic between improvised responses to change and planning in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-646
JournalJournal of Political Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Agrarian studies
  • Agricultura
  • Agriculture
  • Estudios agrarios
  • Improvisación
  • Improvisation
  • Performance
  • Planeación
  • Planification
  • Planning
  • études agraires


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