Cultivating Concrete Utopia: Understanding How Japan’s Permaculture Experiments are Shaping a Political Vision of Sustainable Living


The issue of sustainability in agriculture has gained momentum in reaction to the increasingly problematic consequences of the industrial agriculture model. Diverse alternative models of food production have consequently emerged under headings such as organic agriculture, natural farming, agroecology and permaculture. In this presentation, I propose to show how permaculture merges the concept of sustainable agriculture with the concept of sustainable living. The concept of permaculture was original constructed from the terms “permanent”, “agriculture” and “culture” by the Australian Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. It was rapidly disseminated throughout the world as a social movement promoting a way of living that tackles sustainability through the nexus between nature, culture and agriculture. I recourse to the concept of “concrete utopia” to qualify the double nature of the permaculture movement, referring to local, concrete experimentations with sustainable living that nevertheless carry in them the seed for a possible – but yet utopian – generalization. Building on the data collected through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with Japanese permaculture practitioners, I illustrate this tension between the materiality of sustainable living and the ideality of a new model of society. Permaculture is understood as an agricultural way of living that seeks for sustainability within Japanese traditional culture: it does not solely aim for environmental sustainability but also for a way to sustain Japanese culture on the long run. The Japanese case enables to highlight how cultural and environmental sustainability are mutually reinforcing each other and thus enables to enrich the concept of "concrete utopia".

Author Information
Leila Chakroun, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Paper Information
Conference: ACSEE2019
Stream: Social Sustainability and Sustainable Living

This paper is part of the ACSEE2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
Full Paper
View / Download the full paper in a new tab/window

Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Research

Posted by James Alexander Gordon