David A. (1998) Balancing on a Planet: Toward an Agricultural Anthropology
for the 21st Century. Human Ecology 26(2):323-340.
Robert Netting had a central role in establishing agricultural anthropology.
Many people rightly remember him as an astute ethnographer of farming
communities, focused on analyzing the empirical details of changing patterns
of household composition, land holding size and labor use. Yet, during
his career he was increasingly concerned about the sustainability of smallholder
vs. conventional industrial agriculture models on a global scale. Thus,
Netting also had an important role in laying the foundation for the development
of an agricultural anthropology for the 21st century, an anthropology
that shows how smallholders "balancing on an alp" can help us
to understand how we might balance on this planet. This paper analyzes
Netting's contribution to the future of agricultural anthropology in three
key areas: the environment, population and agriculture relationship; farmer
knowledge and epistemology; and models for global sustainability.
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