Beyond farming women: queering gender, work, and the family farm

In our November blog, prof.dr.ir. Bettina Bock looks back at her 44 years of research around gender and rural development. While issues of gender and agriculture have been on the research agenda since the 1970s, only recently has rural sociology started shifting its attention from the production of traditional gender roles, or the recognition of the role of the women-farmer, to an exploration of the farming cultures of queer farmers.

News article about Prisca Pfammatter’s master thesis, published in the Swiss BauernZeitung on December 10, 2021

Master student Prisca Pfammatter traced back how on traditional family farms in Switzerland, gender is the main axis along which labour is divided and power relationship shaped. Then, drawing from the approaches of performativity theory and weak theory, she investigated how queer farmers understand their farming performances and how these interact and intermingle to create gender and sexual identities that, in turn, inform their farming practices. 

Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork and seven interviews with queer farmer, Pfammatter evidences how through their performances queer farmers not only redefine male and female and masculinity and femininity, but also challenge the gendered division of labour on the farm. As a result, their subversive gender performances have the potential to redefine agriculture as gender-neutral and contribute to a filling of the scholarly gap on how to move agriculture away from the (re)production of the traditional gender binary and its inequalities.

Pfammatter’s research makes three main contributions to the literature. First, it evidences the glaring lack of research around and the invisibility and non-recognition of queer farmers in Switzerland. This lack that is exposed extends to the mechanisms through which farmers are turned away from farming as a livelihood on the basis of their gender, sex and/or sexuality – for example, through the celebration in Switzerland of heterosexual cisgender family farms. Second, the thesis highlights subversive performances and how these challenge the production of binary gender, sex, sexual, and farming identities as well as the attribution of skills on the basis of these socially constructed categories to imply alternative possibilities, roles and futures. Third and finally, it is suggested that farming can be an accommodating space where people can become who they feel they want to be.

Prisca Pfammatter. 2021. Beyond Farming Women: Queering gender, work and family farms, Master Thesis: https://edepot.wur.nl/557032

On 23 – 25 March 2022, the study will be presented at the International German-language conference “Frauen in der Landwirtschaft”.

Contact: Prisca Pfammatter, prisca.pfammatter@gmail.com