About research, some notes on its basis

Barbanza Ecosocial Lab, promoted by Histagra research group (University of Santiago de Compostela – USC) and Fundación RIA, is a pioneering space for research and action that aims to consolidate eco-agro-innovative proposals that help to move the region towards more sustainable practices. This process must start with the mobilization of local wills, the very communities that inhabit the territory are the protagonists of a movement that in light of the current reality seems necessary. The eco-social transition is a commitment to avoid neglect. The relationship of the human being with nature must change: the domination that we exert on the land, the extractive activities; the own values, imaginaries and ethics associated with the developmental theories must be reconfigured.

There is no infinite growth nor is there individual success in the environmental issue that humanity faces. We are interdependent, cooperative, not a sum of individuals. Social interactions do not have the market as their only measure. The inheritance and legacy to future generations is an exercise in co-responsibility of which bodies such as the UN, the FAO or the EU make us increasingly aware. Facilitating and promoting mechanisms to reverse the collapse is a responsibility of all and of course of the Academy. For a sustainable future, what we can contribute as historians and experts on the territory is the investigation of how we brought about this chaos and what sustainable practices of agro-ecological management we can recover or still identify as resilient.

For a sustainable future, what we can contribute as historians and experts on the territory is the investigation of how we brought about this chaos and what sustainable practices of agro-ecological management we can recover or still identify as resilient.

The participation of the HISTAGRA research group in the design and execution of a project such as this is the manifestation of the conception that science is not neutral but opens up questions and commits to reality. The background of research in theses, articles and books has shown how Galicia has been a territory managed under ecological criteria until the 1930s. Franco’s regime and the Green Revolution created a gap, but in the face of the results and the inertia of developmentalism, there are still processes and approaches that seek more sustainable alternatives. These processes are not only developed by young activists and avant-garde social movements, they are still in everyday life and are the result of a transmission of knowledge and values and of ways of being in the world that have a very strong historical and cultural substrate. They are the expression of a memory, of an exchange of transgenerational practices and the result of processes of slow innovation in some cases, but faster in others. Looking at the world through history always requires overcoming nostalgia for the past, in order to reconstruct the new genealogies in all their complexity and with all their contradictions and alternatives.

Franco’s regime and the Green Revolution created a gap, but in the face of the results and the inertia of developmentalism, there are still processes and approaches that seek more sustainable alternatives.

(English subtitles available through the video settings)

The objective of the first phase of the Ecosocial Lab´s research is to learn about the traces of sustainable and organic agricultural management that survive, and to serve thememory of the farming management of the territory. A further objective is to identify the disturbing inertias of sustainability that took root in the past. With the creation of the Cartography of the Historical Management of the Territory we compile a set of knowledge related to the management of the land, the interdependences, the commerce, the relation of the communal areas with the house and of the historical traces that can help to generate some new imaginaries starting from a historical reconstruction of the communities and their management of the agro-ecosystems. There is no doubt that times have changed, but there is room to recover management logics and world views that yielded positive results and therefore have lasted over time. Although today we identify them by the taste and not by the work: the taste of turnip greens, potatoes, heather honey or pork fattened with chestnuts.

The oral source once again plays a fundamental role in tracing that memory, which in many cases is forgotten, obscured or subordinated. With the “prudence of the researcher”, as an ethical commitment, the aim is to reconstruct the community’s memory, to recover it against “the enormous arrogance of posterity”, to be able to extract all that information that is buried, domestic and hidden. And with people’s memory also appear the letters, the writings, the photographs of the world that was. It is not only a matter of making the memory of the community, but of thinking of it in terms of the eco-social transition. What aspects of the past can we recover to make it happen? That is why it is necessary to study the relationships/interdependencies, between the house and the village, between the domestic and the collective, through the productive, identity and institutional relationships. We must attend to these ecosystemic interrelations with the territory, with the waters, between society, with energies, with the forest, with animals, with leisure, with care and how they put life in the center. Also, in their relations with the markets.

It is not only a matter of making the memory of the community, but of thinking of it in terms of the eco-social transition.

Thanks to many hours of interviews carried out across Barbanza, we have been able to investigate questions related to the uses of the territory, forms of management, changes in use, history of the family, community, hospitality, informal networks, uses of time, migrations, values, gender, community work, collective regulation, associationism, conflicts, inequality, the church, the market, modes of food, commercialization, work, and assistance. These concepts were the labels with which the fragments of the interviews were indexed. Each interview was segmented into fragments under a rigorous protocol, the 300 fragments and the complete interviews are deposited in the digital archive Terra e Memoria (USC) (Land & Memory – University of Santiago de Compostela), a web repository free to access that will allow new uses of the research. The use of the Creative Commons licenses and the openness to the use of the sources is a commitment to return the research to the very communities with which we carry out this research exercise.

Concept map for determining the thematic labels of the interview fragments

Thanks to many hours of interviews carried out across Barbanza, we have been able to investigate questions related to the uses of the territory, forms of management, changes in use, history of the family, community, hospitality, informal networks, uses of time, migrations, values, gender, community work, collective regulation, associationism, conflicts, inequality, the church, the market, modes of food, commercialization, work, and assistance.

In turn, the visits and field work enabled us to see the place first-hand, to walk on it in an act of understanding the territory in which we were guided by the interviewees or by the countrymen who came along. Only in this way can we come closer to conceiving the landscape beyond the photo or the map as the result of a dynamic interaction of human and non-human beings with nature. The landscape is the result of a collective intelligence, full of conflicts and influenced by multiple interests. The pressures on land management have changed over time. Unravelling this process is also the aim of the EcoSocial Laboratory’s research. There are documentary samples of this process that give an account of these realities. The local archives are written witnesses of conflicts, of uses and of different world views that were confronted. The papers describe facts, their reading goes beyond words and allows historians to reconstruct the past. The denunciation of the private occupation of a local communal forest, for example, not only talks about this, but also explains the uses that were made of it, the tensions and pressures that were exerted on the territory. Hence the importance of historical knowledge and of understanding the processes to unravel what is written, but not read. With all this, we tried to reconstruct a cartography of historical uses and village management that includes changes, adaptations and innovations in farming over the last three hundred years, and a catalogue of the social practices that built them in their relationship with nature that they are transforming.

We must explore and experiment with supports that reach the citizens and provide feedback on the research, that open up debates and thus, in some way, contribute to mobilizing those wills that help us all to advance towards the inescapable eco-social transition.

The systematization of the process, determining the questions, the methodologies and focusing the look are the keys that will allow us to work with some suitable sources, to extract the information that will materialize in knowledge, in cartography and catalogue. With the aim of amplifying the communities we are addressing, throughout the research process, the dissemination of this knowledge will be shown through text, audio, video or computer graphics and plans. Later, academic articles will be published that gather the results of the research. We must explore and experiment with supports that reach the citizens and provide feedback on the research, that open up debates and thus, in some way, contribute to mobilizing those wills that help us all to advance towards the inescapable eco-social transition.

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