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terra firma

Sara Rivera





An in-progress, collaborative, and free database of select texts on women, land, and resistance. The database does not attempt to be complete nor should it ever be concluded. It will, like a garden, exist as an evolving and expanding pedagogic tool that place and realize women who till land as figures of historic possibility.

The Recipe

To this day, the Philippines remains to be a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country.

Monopoly Capitalism imposed on domestic feudalism transformed the 19th-century backward mode of production to what is now 20th-century semi-feudalism, characterized by landlessness, feudal extortion, wage slavery, outmoded agricultural technology, threats of displacement by corporate land grabbers, and militarization of the countryside.

Currently, nine out of ten Filipino farmers remain landless or have insufficient land to till.

Marx writes:

Landed property presupposes certain persons enjoy the monopoly of disposing of particular portions of the globe as exclusive spheres of their private will to the exclusion of all others.

Toll access systems from the age of print, inherited by the digital era now with new faces—subscriptions and paywalls—have deprived the general public of valuable information. Historically, shadow libraries and public archives have been radical ways of allowing access to resources and tools towards relevant research and knowledge building that welcomes the participation of a larger population.

Nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education struggles to compete with rampant disinformation and further neoliberalization of educational institutions.

Cultural workers grow inspired from the ways that the peasantry have shown imaginative ways of resistance, underlining the possibility of a new social order that empowers everyone and equips everyone to express the collective aspirations of the people.

As knowledge workers we recognize the peasantry as a principal part of knowledge building, knowledge they theorized from their material reality and methods of organizing.

Access to democratic spaces to express and organize is futile, made more scant by enduring State repression that fatally pushes back on resistance of any form. One can trace the agrarian question with a thread through the history of capitalism. Capitalism reiterates and reaffirms the violence of deprivation—it is to deprive farmers of land, workers of a livable wage, people of knowledge, and the capacity to imagine one’s freedom from deprivation.

The soil holds memory. The soil remembers the laborious act of tilling and caring, and the struggles it consequently witnessed.

Words that you can say about both land and archives:

to keep
          to hold
                    to tend
                              to look after

Exploring archiving as a practice in caring, remembering as theorizing, and knowledge as a garden we tend together.

A detail of a three rows of a spreadsheet containing references to texts on the topic of women, land, and resistance. There are six columns, highlighted in pink along the first row, with the following categories: number, year, title, author, publisher, and region. The three titles featured are:
Screen capture from the in progress-open source index. Image credit: Sara Rivera.


What is the context or background that inspired your recipe?

I am an anti-imperialist peasant rights advocate from the Philippines involved in grassroots organizations that seek to advance the agenda for genuine land reform, rural development, and food security in the Philippines. My individual practice focuses on examining memory and hegemony towards imagining possible futures and ecologies of action. I wish to explore archiving as a practice in caring, remembering as theorizing, and knowledge as a garden we tend together.

Which community are you offering the recipe to?

Community organizers that participate in agricultural research, mass base building in rural communities, environmental campaigns, and women-centered histories and struggle. Terra firma is an expanding collection of texts on women, land, and resistance that examines and underlines the roles that rural women, in the struggle for land and life, have played across history to instruct the people of today towards a planetary and mass-oriented network of world-building.

How does your submission relate to intersectional feminism?

This recipe is a proposal for cultural workers who engage in the production of knowledge in bourgeois spaces to learn from rural women. Terra firma is a knowledge-sharing tool and network that seeks to advance the struggle for agrarian reform in countries around the world by forwarding narratives, methods, and forms of anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist theorizing by or about peasant women. It is in this learning that we begin to forge comradeship between women who struggle together.

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