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Research Group "Individualisation and Integration"

Agriculture in the Swiss Jura region
facing modernity:

'traditional' solidarity networks and social integration

Among the increasing number of constraints and difficulties Swiss farmers have to cope with, the ongoing global integration of economic processes constitues one of the most uncertain. At present, it is assumed that it will affect the domain of agriculture very adversely. The GATT agreement, for instance, will lead to the disappearance of a considerable number of mainly small rural enterprises.

Accordingly, in view of an evaluation of the perspectives and the not yet developed local potentials, some basic questions arise. For the purpose of the present research they start from a consideration of general hypotheses about the cultural and societal fabric of rural communities:

How will farmers and livestock breeders from the peripheral Swiss Jura face the irruption of modernity? Will they rely on "traditional" networks of solidarity ("Traditionelle Vergemeinschaftung") to support a renewed social integration?
What are the structures of these solidarity networks and what is their degree of efficiency in response to the ongoing process of individualisation in modern European societies?
Are other forms of solidarity, addressed in other studies of the present programme, really "modern"? Or are they not new expressions of "traditional" networks? In other words, and referring to the societal context of a peripheral rural area, one may wonder whether and to what extent the process of individualisation has achieved the advanced stage known in urban settings.

The expected results of the planned research should allow for an amendment of the prevailing representation about the "archaic" orientation of social concepts of peasant people. Moreover, it is expected that they will provide adequate means and targeted measures indispensable for the reaching of two goals: Firstly, results aim at facilitating the reinsertion of the farmers and the peasant world, both threatened from disarticulation of the global society, and secondly, they may be encouraged and supported in the "modernisation" of social practices of solidarity embedded in rural lifestyles and modes of social reproduction.

Research methodology
Research methodology has been experienced and successfully applied in rural contexts in Kenya and Colombia. The various instruments of the anthropological method (i.e. participant observation, in-depth interviews, life histories, social network analysis) will be used in the collection of qualitative data on farmers and livestock breeders in the Swiss Jura.
A study in this peripheral region is justified for several reasons: up to now, no specific study on the peasants of the Jura has been undertaken; on the other hand one has to acknowledge some characteristic features of the dichotomy between traditional and modern lifestyles, e.g. the early and repeated exposure to modernity, manifold and intense rural-urban relationships etc. Moreover, the Jura offers an interesting international link to the "Europe of the regions" because on both sides of the border there is an understanding of a common identity which will facilitate cross-border co-operation with French colleagues.

Diffusion of results
Contacts with local administration and farmers' organisations (local, regional and national) will assure dissemination of the findings of the research among farmers and administrative bodies concerned by the acute transformation of the rural world.
Moreover, the immediate valorisation of the preliminary results of the research within the teaching of European Anthropology at the University of Neuchâtel creates a tight connection between research and teaching and allows for an iterative discussion and evaluation of the findings.
An international and interdisciplinary colloquium, organised by the Institute of Ethnology of the University of Neuchâtel is open to a wide audience of academics and professionals. It will facilitate the dissemination of the conclusions of the whole research on individualisation and integration.

Dr. Yvan Droz, République 3, CH-2300 La Chaux-de-Fonds.

last updated 20.12.97 by Christoph Müller

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