About the Lecture:
This paper tells the story of a small group of Central Vietnamese farmers living near the tourist town of Hoi An who avoided being forced out of farming, and quite possibly losing their land, by starting a co-operative called the Thanh Dong Organic Vegetable Garden. Faced by the economic crisis of smallholder farming, the onset of large-scale development, creeping gentrification of their hamlet and the seemingly inevitable fate of becoming peri-urban workers in the lower reaches of the tourist industry, the handful of farming families that forms the co-op performed the seemingly miraculous task of finding a way to return to working their own land in a style that is economically, environmentally and socially durable. With a little help from local government, NGOs and even the ANU, it is as though they succeeded in reassembling their fractured local world.
For the moment at least, the Thanh Dong farmers have evaded the waves of deterritorialisation acting on their community and found a way of turning towards the terrestrial or “landing on the earth”, as Latour (2018) has it. They certainly don’t inhabit the world of simple localism that tends to be evoked in the organics literature, but rather have assembled a local that is networked with the Vietnamese state, national and international NGOs, farming neighbours, city people, tourists, field school students, Airbnb Experiences and expatriates. In so doing they have found a way to happily and productively dwell in a space of “traditional” smallholder farming that everyone thought had been once and for all left behind by the advancing front of modernisation.
This paper takes a New Materialisms perspective informed by Bruno Latour as well as recent influential works in anthropology such as Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015) and Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble (2016). It seeks to join these latter writers in telling hopeful stories about “life in the ruins” of capitalist modernity, unlikely endeavours of multi-species worldmaking, and situated technological projects that occupy a nonmodern orientation to the unfolding of time.
About the Speaker:
Ashley Carruthers is a lecturer in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the ANU. His recent publications include:Carruthers, A. (2018) Taking the Road for Play: Cyclist Appropriations of Automobile Infrastructures in Vietnam. Transfers 8, 1-27. Carruthers, A. & Dang, T. D. in Earl, C. (Ed.) (2018) On the Myth of Uncivilized Rural People in the City. Mythbusting Vietnam: Facts, Fictions, Fantasies, NIAS, 163–181