Slow Activism and the Cultivation of Environmental Stewardship in Rural Spaces


  • Katherine Borland The Ohio State University


Appalachian Ohio, Watershed, Forest, Landscape, Citizen-Science, Citizen-Folklorist


In the United States, the rural Midwest is often dubbed the flyover zone, dull and uninteresting compared to our coastal centers of culture. Only by visiting do we urbanites begin to understand rural people as diverse in their backgrounds and views and steeped in their own   natural and cultural histories. In Southern Ohio this history includes an incredible story of forest return, initiated by prescient state and federal politicians in the early twentieth-century, but abetted by countless private smallholders, and more recently, by nonprofit organizations and voluntary associations committed to a greener future. Reversing standard practice, I suggest we look for theory not in the urban centers of academic learning but in the slow activism of rural citizen scientists who are working to transform area residents into stewards of their own forests and watersheds. What lessons might ethnographers learn about engaging people across ideological difference for a common good from those who have been working on behalf of nature for the last quarter century? Taking up Maribel Alvarez's recent call to imagine ourselves as Citizen-Folklorists (Alvarez and Nabhan 2018), I ponder the role of the folklorist in         documenting groups who are already adept at telling and sharing their own stories. What does solidarity and allyship look like in this case?




How to Cite

Borland, K. (2021). Slow Activism and the Cultivation of Environmental Stewardship in Rural Spaces. Ethnologia Fennica, 48(1), 4–30. Retrieved from