Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines
Public access from 1 sept. 2022

Social (un-)learning and the legitimization of marginalized knowledge: How a new community of practice tries to ‘kick the grain habit’ in ruminant livestock farming

Vetter, Thomas

In: Journal of Rural Studies, 2020, vol. 79, p. 11-23

This paper presents a qualitative case study analysis of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA), which seeks to ‘kick the grain habit’ in ruminant farming by promoting and certifying purely pasture-fed production systems. Reading through a social learning perspective, the article first traces back how this association has become established as a new and distinct community of practice... More

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    Summary
    This paper presents a qualitative case study analysis of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA), which seeks to ‘kick the grain habit’ in ruminant farming by promoting and certifying purely pasture-fed production systems. Reading through a social learning perspective, the article first traces back how this association has become established as a new and distinct community of practice (CoP). This entails attending to the process of forming a joint enterprise, the spaces that allow for mutual engagement between its members, and the shared repertoire that has been built over time. Thus, the paper draws on the three key characteristics of Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger's (1991) conceptualization of communities of practice, which have become widely recognized for providing effective fora for learning and knowledge management, as well as for spurring innovations. More precisely, the paper connects with earlier works invoking this concept within agri-food studies and specifically seeks to contribute to the debates raised around the forms of knowledge that are shared within such communities and their members' means of interaction that facilitate social learning. Secondly, and in direct relation to this theoretical framing, the paper makes an attempt to refine understandings of social learning. While this remains predominately associated with the acquisition of new knowledge, skills or technologies, the paper argues for a dialectical perspective, which pays equal attention to how people break with past practices. In other words, the paper highlights the role that unlearning plays within new CoPs such as the PFLA. Lastly, the paper explores the wider knowledge networks that are forged as the community matures and seeks to disseminate and legitimize its knowledge beyond its own boundaries. The empirical material of this case study will be useful to inform debates about the potential role that new CoPs can play in bringing marginalized practices, knowledges, and products to peoples' minds and markets.