zaterdag 8 januari 2011

I glean, you glean, we glean

Two days ago I learned a new word: gleaning:
Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. Some ancient cultures promoted gleaning as an early form of a welfare system.
Gleaning as an agricultural etiquette of leftover management; how excellent, In the past gleaners must have been a common sight, why else would a painting like the one above and the below be made, perhaps gleaners were the homeless people selling their papers at the supermarket of today?? Now the word will lead you to rural US Christian poverty relieve initiatives. 

It is telling that gleaning, which is a kind of weird agricultural-foraging hybrid, has been linked with the poor for as long as anybody can remember. It is a kind of foraging; gleaners live off the land and need to move to find food, but it lacks the deep skill and know-how, it is parasitic on human labour instead of a productivity based on an intimate knowledge of the surroundings. Gleaning as the foraging of the lumpen proletariat. Now people are starting to think of gleaning as a kind of cool grassroots humanizing and reinhabitation of mechanized agricultural factory fields. 

Reader Bryan Sonderman points us to 'The Gleaners and I" a 2000 film by Agnes Verda, the first minutes are online with English subtitles, the film deals mostly with urban gleaning: (poor) people collecting left overs at market stalls and the end of the day, as something shameful that inspires rappers to write lyrics about. Again: freeganism and Food not Bombs and other initiatives are adopting gleaning (dumpster diving/skipping) as a life style project that critically reflects on our production of waste and the uneven diffusion of wealth in our society.   

What mental distances we are crossing. 

Why was the word new to me: perhaps because I had no matching concept in Dutch. After checking several online translation services, though none of them authoritative, one came up with nothing, the second with 'sprokkelen' which is clearly an insane translation and the third came up with 'aren lezen' which I never heard before but which turned out to be the thoroughly old-fashioned, biblical but proper Dutch translation. As I can't imagine anyone saying something like "Vaader, ik ga thans aren lezen in 't ginderse veld', Dutch gleaners would probably announce that they 'are going to see if there is something left in the fields of Boer Harm'. This puts 'gleaning', in Dutch, in the same category as 'serendipity' and 'foraging': words that have dictionary translations that are so far removed from daily usage as to be of no practical use. But you won't see me going all Whorfian.

Of course someone has done a G-map glean app:
Van Gogh, 1885.

2 opmerkingen:

  1. There's a great documentary called "The Gleaners" that references that painting. Agnes Varda, the filmmaker, examines contemporary gleaners (literal and otherwise) in the context of the historical practice and social utility of gleaning.

    Well worth checking out, if you're curious about the subject!

  2. Sprokkelen doesn't sound _that_ far fetched. "Aardappels sprokkelen" might not be technically correct, but you would certainly know what I mean.