Institute for Social Justice


Anne O’Brien

Anne O’Brien

Ethical relationships to soil in the Anthropocene

I am interested in the ways in which regard for the ecological integrity of the soil emerges for people who work on the land. I focus particularly on agriculture and on soil as a means of production, as an interspecies commons, a habitat and a medium by which to engage with the dynamic nutrient, water and energy cycles that make life possible and that can help to moderate dangerous climate change. I look at receptivity as an environmental virtue, at frameworks of seeing: phenomenolgical relationships in skill and craft; at technologies that enhance interspecies relationships, Illich’s concept of ‘convivial tools’, Heidegger’s critique of instrumental reason, and the ways in which Latour and others examine the interactive agencies of ‘more than human’ attachments and assemblages that act together in the world.

My fieldwork involves interviews, participant observation and attendance at agricultural field days and workshops.