On 27 and 28 January 2017, the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 923 “Threatened Order – Societies under Stress” at the University of Tübingen hosted an international workshop on “Knowing Soils: An Anthropology of Agricultural Knowledge”. Organized by the research group “Salinization and soil degradation as threats to the agrarian orders in Russia, Kazakhstan/ Tajikistan and Australia since 1945,” the workshop offered an interdisciplinary platform where historians, politica...

September 28, 2017

Like a weevil in a flour jar, a mole in a hole, an earthworm in a pile of loam. This is how I felt during the inaugural Soil Care Network workshop. As someone who has moved between researching soil as an ecologist and as a human geographer, between the academy and practice I was very excited to learn of this new interdisciplinary initiative.

Soil is an ideal medium, concept and set of practices to bring a diversity of people together. This was well illustrated in Sheffield thi...

June 26, 2017

It is widely acknowledged that, in public engagement some science and technology topics are a slightly easier ‘sell’ than others. Where overt relevance to day-to-day life or technical spectacle are involved, stories write themselves. Soil, however, is not generally regarded as one of these topics. In this already tough field (excuse the pun) for my PhD research I chose to combine some of the more obscure and less ‘sexy’ elements of soil science: inorganic geochemistry and soi...

May 30, 2017

When I was a child, my grandfather grew intoxicatingly fragrant rose bushes, spaced one metre apart. I would follow him around the garden as he potted about. He carefully maintained a surface of crumbly, bare soil underneath the bushes, with a very neat straight border between the bare soil and the thick grass. He believed this was good for both the soil and the plants. Such practices reflected conventional wisdom at the time. 

Today, there is a growing understanding that soil...

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