In this article, we offer a manifesto for a progressive twenty-first century land-grant mission in an era of rising authoritarian populism in the United States. We explore the historical context of this mode of political engagement, argue that scholars based at land-grant universities are uniquely positioned to address this political moment, and offer examples of land-grant scholars who have embraced this political obligation directly. In the midst of the U.S. Civil War, the federal government provided grants of land to one college in every state to establish universities especially with extension-oriented missions committed to agricultural research and training; today, there are seventy-six land-grant universities. Just as the constitution of these universities at a significant moment in the country’s history served a political purpose, the current political climate demands a robust political response from contemporary land-grant scholars. Given the mandate for land-grant universities to serve their communities, how can a critical land-grant mission respond to the current political moment of emergent authoritarian populism in the United States and internationally? What responsibilities are entailed in the land-grant mission? We consider some strategies that land-grant scholars are employing to engage with communities grappling most directly with economic stagnation, climate change, and agrarian dispossession. We also suggest that, amid the dramatically shifting political climate in the United States, all scholars regardless of land-grant affiliation should be concerned with land-grant institutions’ capacities to engage with the country’s most disenfranchised populations as a means to pushing back against authoritarian populism. Key Words: authoritarian populism, higher education, land-grant institutions, public geographies, United States.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Earth-Surface Processes