Lines in the Landscape : Land reform and the landscape in southern Ukraine
Abstract: This thesis is a field study focusing on change in the agricultural landscape following Ukraine’s post-independence land reform, in which Soviet era collective and state farms were dissolved and the ownership of 30 million hectares of agricultural land was distributed to former collective farm workers. It is based on an eight-week field visit to the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson, during which time the author was able to interview 21 farmers and agricultural officials. Economists, anthropologists and even political scientists have examined post-independence Ukrainian agriculture, and more specifically discussed reasons for the widely-observed continuities between agriculture today and under the Soviet period, despite sweeping reforms. Despite the prominence of land reform as a research subject in landscape studies, there are few landscape treatments of Ukrainian agriculture in English. The main purpose of this thesis then was to connect the empirical data I gathered in Kherson to landscape and political ecology perspectives in order to develop and explore a research problem dealing with Ukrainian agricultural continuity and change from a geographic perspective. The main conclusion is that a landscape perspective has much to contribute with respect to the debate on Ukrainian agriculture. Specifically, conceiving of the agricultural landscape as landesque capital – long-term land improvements tied to specific agricultural knowledge systems and organizational forms – helps to understand how a heavily capitalized landscape can exert an inertial impact on future developments, thereby (re)producing continuity.
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