Rebecca Ann Dudley

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Washington U., St. Louis

Grant number

Gr. 10296

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Dudley, Rebecca (Washington U., St. Louis) "“They do my spraying for me”: Black Industrial Farmers, Digitized Landscapes, and Racialized Agrarian Decision-Making in Louisiana"

“They do my spraying for me,” an elderly Black farmer gestured over his 140 soybean acres, explaining to me how his 6,000-acre white farmer neighbors—with their digital agriculture equipment—spray pesticides for him, a necessary input for this kind of farming. His is an anomaly in Louisiana sugarcane country—why soybeans, compared to lucrative sugarcane? Why farm alone—yet rely on a neighbor? Why not do his own spraying? I propose an ethnographic study of how agricultural decision-making, and particularly technology adoption, is affected by race in the American South. In Louisiana, sugarcane, cotton, and grain monocultures are rooted in enslaved labor and patriarchal landownership that produced and enacted systemic racist agricultural systems. Yet, innovation-adoption is conventionally modeled at the level of the single farm and farmer, isolated from the social context of the farm community and historical context of systemic racial discrimination. I propose an ethnographic study of how the historic experience of Black farmers has led to distinctive social relations of agricultural production, and how these relations affect technology adoption, using the case of digital agriculture. By centering questions of farmer sovereignty and autonomy, intersecting Black geography and the anthropology of agricultural technology, this study will theorize racialized agricultural decision-making.