Doing gender (in) equality in Swedish family farming

Doctoral thesis OPEN
Andersson, Elias (2014)
  • Subject: Sociology (excluding Social work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) | Gender Studies

Economic and social conditions on Swedish farms have altered in recent decades, restructuring the sector, but the family farm is still the primary production unit. Sweden is often described as a role model in gender equality, but a gender-unequal situation in farming has been identified, posing a political challenge. This thesis critically assessed how gender inequalities are reproduced within Swedish family farming by analysing how the 'doing' of family farming, in terms of labour and material relations, is shaped and reproduced. This approach focused the analysis on relations of and in production, by placing labour and property at the centre. Other approaches yielded novel information. The theoretical frameworks of labour process theory, political economy, feminist standpoint theory and material feminism, provided conceptual space to examine the reproduction of gender inequalities. In mixed method research, two types of survey data, interviews with farmers and literature on occupational health and safety in agriculture were used to analyse gendered access to arable land and farming conditions; the Swedish agrarian structure and the gendered organisation of the labour process; the gendered understating of agricultural health and safety; and the temporalities of Swedish family farming. The results showed how gender inequalities are reproduced in the temporal and spatial organisation and structuring of the labour process and through unequal distribution of resources. Unequal access to arable land contributes particularly to the gendering of farm management, farm diversification and farm ability to provide household income. A spatial stratification was observed, with larger gendered differences in more productive areas. The farm labour process forms the diverse experience of time, space, economy and labour of men and women in family farming. The different spheres and socio-economic modes of the labour process puts men and women in unequal positions, with differing materialised experiences of family farming and farm work; its risks, problems and consequences. The findings highlight the persistence of family farming in the Swedish agrarian structure and the importance of gender mainstreaming in e.g. policy, education and risk prevention work. More research is needed on the gendering effects of renegotiation of the family farm concept and situated agrarian change.
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