Care in the Modern Public Sphere, in terms of Rural Working Lands

Key Questions

Framing: How do we care for each other and Earth in a divided public?


  • Who makes up the new generation of farmers in Oregon today? Who makes up the retiring generation? How do these people get connected?
  • How do families with working agricultural land in Oregon feel about the state of their land? How do beginning farmers/ranchers feel about securing land? 
  • What do rural landowners of working lands and beginning farmers/ranchers in Oregon have in common, or difference, with each other? 


  • Where/under what circumstances are successful or unmet generational succession agreements for agricultural lands in Oregon taking place?
  • How do the forces of rural-urban outmigration and urban-rural counter-urbanization exist among people living and working in Oregon?


  • Can publics span rural and urban areas?
  • Can care for each other span rural and urban areas?
  • What do rural livelihoods and working lands depend on?
  • Is the well-being of all tied to the success of our rural working lands? 
  • If farmland succession is a struggle in Oregon, where is the problem worse and where is it easier?


  • What does the current challenge of supporting generational succession of rural working lands in Oregon teach us about people working together across difference?
  • To what extent is the social fabric along the rural-urban continuum fraying? What mending does it need? 
  • (How do we care for each other and Earth in an unequal world?)

Research framework procedure

To develop annotated bibliography topic sections, I began by reviewing all of the courses I had taken in my four years at Lewis & Clark and noted some of the concepts and problems that stuck with me. These ended up being care (from classes in medical anthropology), modernity (from social theory and pursuits in environmental studies) and the public sphere (from rhetoric and media studies). 

Unfortunately, my framework severely lacks theory and questions that help me inquire into the very lands of Earth I speak of, with methods of the natural sciences. I managed to take roughly one natural science course in my time at Lewis & Clark (you’d never know I arrived to LC intending to pursue my curiosity and affinity for those sciences), so in part, it feels as if I’m saving that for a later time. As a result, my topic sections are only so interdisciplinarily inclusive.

I iteratively developed my isms map (see featured image at the top of the page). As of now, it seems as though coherence is reached by staging my four topics in hourglass formation, with land succession in Oregon leading to my situated context. This is imperfect; for instance, I still don’t quite know what I mean by meaningful action, and why it is a hub, other than it seems to be ready to teach me something in the future….so I’m letting that hang around. This isms map will evolve into something else, so I’m calling it fine for now.

Research framework application

My framework as demonstrated in the isms map above still does not demonstrate the inclusivity and coherence I need to have it serve as a navigation tool for my thesis research. For example, the middle subject “Meaningful action” is a place-holder of sorts; it doesn’t have a direct section in, or connection to, my framework, but seems to be holding the place for something else to come.

Looking forward, I think a helpful next step will be to try mapping the above key questions I brainstormed to the framework map. I am planning to do this before the next assignment deadline of research project outline.