February 2021 | The Uncaptured Garden: Steven Stoll on Agrarian Resistance in Appalachia
In this episode of Partisan Gardens, we share a conversation between Ryan Richardson, a writer and activist born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains, and Steven Stoll. Dr. Stoll teaches at Fordham University and is the author of Ramp Hollow, a celebrated agrarian history of Appalachia.
Stoll seeks to revive the memory of agrarian life and its destruction through capitalist enclosure. Emphasizing the commons and the ecological dimension of survival in the mountains, he wrangles in Ramp Hollow with the complex legacy of the colonial expulsion of the indigenous peoples of the mountains, as well as the ways in which the mountain people’s autonomy was co-opted by the coal companies. Stoll’s notion of the “captured garden,” in which agrarian subsistence was used by employers to maintain low wages, offers an important warning to contemporary advocates of food sovereignty.
Indeed, the struggles of Appalachian people offer a range of lessons for contemporary food politics, not least the dangers of capture, but also the possibility to carve out forms of collective subsistence that instead grow autonomy. At the end of the conversation, Richardson and Stoll reflect on this potential, via Los Angeles’ South Central Farm – an urban oasis maintained by hundreds of immigrant-farmers that functioned as an “uncaptured garden.”