“homesteadin'” conversations?

Can we talk?  Good!  We discussed the loaded term ‘homestead’ in  Homestead Act 2.0 a bit ago and I’m sure you are eagerily awaiting Homestead Act 2.1  coming soon.  Really it is.  Can you hardly wait?

In the meantime, I’d love your thoughts.  If you haven’t, read or re-read the post and give me your take.   The post has gotten some attention over at Homegrown Evolution and there is an ongoing discussion in the comments.  Discussion is good my friends.

Again- my main goal is having folks think about the terms they use and the loaded historical significance embedded in the term ‘homestead.’   I am in no way criticizing the actual work/activities people are undertaking. 

I am calling for a more critical analysis.  A more critical race analysis.  That makes folks uncomfortable, question and squirm. Like most good deep learning does. 

Thoughts?  I would love to hear what people think!  Has the way you thought about the term changed? Or not?

And if you were to name this movement that is characterized (generally) by growing/preserving food, sustainability, DIY, community, eating locally, etc….what would you call it?    

Just added: Inder over at Inder Loves Folk Art has also been thinking about the subject and written a great post!  Check it out!

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8 Responses to “homesteadin'” conversations?

  1. veronicabayetti says:

    i’m new over here – got here through homegrown evolution. i thought your homestead 2.0 post was GREAT – it’s SO important to have a critical race analysis, and you did a wonderful job of outlining the problematic history of the term and why we should stop using it.

    thank you!

  2. Thanks for stopping by and weighing in!

  3. Jennie says:

    I’ve been thinking about what to call it, and all I can come up with is Home Economics. Isn’t all this what *used* to be covered in Home Economics classes? Cooking/baking from scratch, making clothing and house goods, raising your food. Not that I ever learned such things in Home Ec… 😛

    Most of the activities are ways to make your home contribute to the family’s economic well being. Home Economics seems to fit. And, it’s a term we can reclaim without the baggage that seems to hamper the Homestead term.

    Just my thoughts.

  4. Hmmm- you might be right Jennie! Thanks for dropping in.
    I guess since people come at the activities for so many varied reasons it is hard to name! But you are right that home ec. doesn’t have the trauma-baggage attached to it.

    PS-where in iowa are you? I went to U.of I.

  5. Kylie says:

    Home Economics still has all the racial baggage connected due to the educational track systems in place during the 1920-50’s in the United States. African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans were placed in vocational tracks because they were not as “smart” as white students. This meant that boys were in mechanics and carpentry classes and girls took home economics.

    Any word that is chosen is going to have racial/gender/age/something issues due to the nature of post-structural linguistics and the basic fact that someone has used the word before. Homesteading has the issues you’ve pointed out. Farming can be connected with all the issue of large scale mono-culture, chemicals wrecking the environment, animal cruelty, and is still basically a white field. Urban agrarianism is a new term that I’ve seen but that opens the whole Jeffersonian era can of worms that includes slavery and imperialism amongst other issues.

    There are two solutions for this labeling issue. One, make up an entirely new word. Something that’s not in the dictionary or floating about the internet that way there is no baggage associated with it. Or two, choose a term and claim it (or reclaim it). Make the term mean first a foremost what you are doing and only after a reminder will those other meanings come to mind (example: gay means homosexual, no one uses it to mean happy).

    Personally, I like the word homesteading and would rather use it as my label with its connect to past injustices rather than be part of a system that is currently practicing injustices and economic imperialism.

    • Kylie- I agree with you on a lot of what you said. Any term has the potential to cause harm to others and/or had historical baggage. Such is the limited nature of language.
      It is my belief that no one can claim/or reclaim a term unless they are a member of the group marginalized/harmed by the term originally. Examples for this might be that I, as a queer woman, can reclaim “dyke” or “queer,” but someone who is not can’t/shouldn’t do that. Reclaiming a term that has historically caused pain/hurt can only be done by those hurt by it. Not by others deciding that it is ok to reclaim.
      To follow that through, as a white person I can’t make the choice to reclaim the term ‘homesteading.’ And, I don’t find the term ‘homesteading’ to even be that accurate.
      I still don’t have the answers. Mine is full of actions of sustainability, social justice, community building, resistance, connection, growth, self/community reliance and love.
      I think ‘the movement’ involves and means different things to different people. It is both about the activities and pursuits as well as the drive behind it.

  6. k a t says:

    Thinking about this conversation on homesteading reminded me of this article by Julie Guthman, which is provocative to say the least! I wouldn’t say I agree with everything she says but I think it’s useful to look at the history of food movements and land use in the U.S. in regards to race. It’s a pdf at: http://cgj.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/15/4/431

    Interested in what others think, especially if they read the whole article.


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