Emily Reisman

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Santa Cruz, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9554

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Reisman, Emily L., U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid research on 'Orchard Entanglements: A More-Than-Human Ethnography of Almond Growing Practice in California and Spain,' supervised by Dr. Madeleine Fairbairn

Spanish almond orchards have for over a century produced nuts for the global market without any irrigation. Yet almond orchards in California today draw roughly one gallon of water per nut. Dominant political economic explanations of agricultural resource use point to resource pricing or land distribution, yet both Spain and California experience highly subsidized water through massive irrigation infrastructures and parallel systems of large landholdings. While California growers transport increasingly imperilled honeybees across the continent to pollinate almond flowers, Spanish growers rely on local wild pollinators. To understand the contrast and connectivity between these places I argue the relationship between humans and nonhuman actors must be brought to the foreground. I engage with the emerging body of theory on more-than-human ethnography to ask: why do almond assemblages in California draw extensive ecological resources while in Spain they do not? Through a detailed ethnographic account of orchard entanglements I examine the histories, ontologies and crises of these two distinct almond producing landscapes. Doing so uncovers how agrarian change, often explained in political economic terms, may be inherently a more-than-human affair. Comparing almond production in Spain and California troubles existing explanations of agrarian change and traces the relationship between Spain and its former colony California as an ongoing mutual reshaping of landscapes. This comparative more-than-human study of almond production has both empirical significance for understanding how agricultural industrialization intersects with environmental change, and theoretical implications for bridging more-than-human approaches with the political economy of agriculture.


Reisman, Emily. 2022. Protecting provenance, abandoning agriculture? Heritage products, industrial ideals and the uprooting of a Spanish turrón. Journal of Rural Studies. 89: 45-53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2021.11.003