Fields of cultural contradictions: Lessons from the tobacco patch
Agro-food systems, Burley tobacco, Commodity systems analysis, Consumption, Culture, Kentucky, Values
Agriculture and Human Values
Why do tobacco farmers continue to produce tobacco in light of the bleak future of this crop? Given the changing political economy of tobacco, we might expect producers to respond by diversifying their enterprises. This study of Kentucky burley tobacco farmers finds that farmers express contradictory values toward the economic role of production and the social value of tobacco consumption. The economic value of tobacco is articulated by drawing upon experiential lessons with the crop. These, in turn, are used to inform production processes (reproduction of tobacco farming), all the while castigating the consumption of their commodity. Farmers persist in producing tobacco because of the structural and historical conditions of the region that have engendered a culture of tobacco production. The contradiction in production and consumption values suggests that the cultural turn in agro-food studies needs to move away from a linear approach of cultural values as determinants of social action and become sensitive to the differential ways commodity actors produce, use, and reproduce a culture of commodity production and a culture of commodity consumption. This unproblematic and linear association between values and economic activity misinforms social science research about seemingly "individual" motivations that are shaped by historical and structural conditions. © Springer 2005.
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
Wright, D. Wynne, "Fields of cultural contradictions: Lessons from the tobacco patch" (2005). Faculty Publications. 2895.