Zachary La Rock

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Massachusetts Inst. of Technology

Grant number

Gr. 10522

Approve Date

April 6, 2023

Project Title

La Rock, Zachary (Massachusetts Inst. of Technology) "Uprooting Monoculture: The Cultural Politics of Integration at Europe's Southern Edge"

This research will trace the cultural politics of European integration in southern Italy, where, since 2013, the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa has caused massive tree death in Puglia’s olive monocultures. Absent a cure, the European Union requires that growers uproot centenary trees exposed to the bacteria and subsidizes their replacement with bioengineered, high-density alternatives. My ethnographic fieldwork will investigate how farmworkers, phytosanitary regulators, and their technoscientific advisors navigate monoculture’s apparent disintegration. Simultaneously, I ask how growers draw on their engagement with Xylella to pose even broader questions about integration: of Italy within the EU, of migrant farmworkers within Italy, and of monoculture on a warming planet. Tracking how my interlocutors respond to diseased landscapes and shape the more-than-human relations within them, the research will outline legacies and futures of environmental, political, and civic integration from a place where integration’s aims are disputed. Today, Italy is witnessing pronounced demographic shifts, a resurging, identitarian right wing, and effects of climate change partially linked to monoculture. Investigating practices and moral imaginaries of integration across different scales ‘ from the ecological to the political; from the civic to the planetary ‘ will illuminate how matters of belonging are nested in the 21st century.