Young organic farmers in Japan: Betting on lifestyle, locality, and livelihood
This analysis of Japanese organic farmers in their 30s and 40s gains insight from Lyng’s framework of ‘edgework’—a transgression of life/death boundaries by sports practitioners. Young farmers emerged in qualitative fieldwork as ‘occupational edge-workers,’ crisscrossing binaries such as urban/rural, mind/body, and economic/moral. They manage risks and navigate uncertainties of natural forces, traditional village practices, neoliberal pressures to be entrepreneurial in the market, and judgment of older, purer organic farmers. With goals of living in harmony with nature, intimate others, and community, they create lifestyles in marginal rural localities by which they can make selves that are alternative to the neoliberal narrative, yet act as entrepreneurial subjects that risk bringing their version of morality to the market, via delicious, organic food sold to self-creating consumers. Claiming normality and spurning ideas of organic as a movement, their alterity is partial and practical as they exploit the potentials of this risky border zone. Conducted in 2012 and 2014, this research contributes to investigating alternative lifestyles in Japan, exploring the changing nature of alternative food movements in the neoliberal era, and understanding active agency for self and the environment in the neoliberal situation of entrepreneurial subjectivities, edgy self-making, and historical traditions.
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