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Re-animating soils: Transforming human–soil affections through science, culture and community

soilMaria Puig de la Bellacasa (2019) “Re-animating soils: Transforming human–soil affections through science, culture and community” The Sociological Review, Volume: 67 issue: 2, page(s): 391-407.

Link to paper:

Abstract : ‘In a sense we are unique moist packages of animated soil’. These are the alluring words of Francis D. Hole, a professor of soil science renowned for encouraging love for the soil and understanding of its vital importance. Affirming humans as being soil entangles them in substantial commonness. This article explores how altering the imaginaries of soils as inert matter subjected to human use and re-animating the life within them is transforming contemporary human–soil affections by developing a sense of shared aliveness. Presenting research on current practices and stories emerging from scientific accounts, community involvements and artistic manifestations, I propose five emerging motifs of renewed imaginaries of soil’s aliveness that feed into each other to affirm intimate entanglements of human–soil matter. I argue that while a vision of anthropocenic soils invokes yet another objectified natural resource brought to exhaustion by a deadly human-centred productionist ethos, as soils are re-animated and enlivened, a sense of human–soil entangled and intimate interdependency is intensified. These new involvements with soil’s aliveness open up a sense of earthy connectedness that animates and re-affects material worlds and foster sense of more than human community.