Notes From the Field is a series of updates from Antioch College faculty members about the travel and research they’ve conducted.
Assistant Professor of Cooperative Education Beth Bridgeman attended the Oral History in the Liberal Art (OHLA) Institute in July, convened by her Antioch colleague and Director of the Oral History in the Liberal Arts, GLCA/GLAA Initiative, Brooke Bryan. As an OHLA GLCA Faculty Fellow, Bridgeman received funding for her research project, Re-establishing a Seed Commons through Oral History Methodology: Capturing the Story of Seed, through generous support from the Mellon Foundation. Her research will be incorporated in to her Seed-Sovereignty and Citizen Action course this fall.
“[But] someone needs to keep up an old method if it’s not to be lost; some young person needs to get interested and begin the life’s work of mastering the craft; be it botanical art or baking salt-raising bread or making saddles. Like lifeforms themselves, human crafts must be continually renewed, regrown inside a living person, or they become obsolete, extinct, within a generation”.[i]
Bridgeman’s project incorporates oral history methodology into an upper-level course on seed-saving, reskilling, and resilience. It provides a venue for preserving knowledge of the nearly lost art of saving seed while grounding students in an epistemology of hope as they document changemakers who are charting a course forward into the great uncertainty of the Anthropocene. It highlights storytelling, and mindful listening, as a means of transferring knowledge from one generation to the next, and engages students in meaningful pedagogies within a community of practice.
She is also serving as faculty mentor for her student Ryn McCall’s OHLA research project, Post Capitalist Communities: Tools for Building a Solidarity Economy.
Bridgeman also applied for and received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant from the Great Lakes College Association to conduct research in Japan in Spring 2020. Her research project, Pedagogies of Nature: Shinto, Spiritual Ecology, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge, will explore Shinto-informed concepts of reciprocity and ritual in environmental engagement, including an emphasis on the traditional shinboku (divine ancient trees) and chinju no mori (protective woods) surrounding Shinto shrines.
Bridgeman attended the Midwest Native Plant conference in July and is also on the planning committee (along with Dennie Eagleson ’71, Rachel Isaacson ’19, and Shelby Pratt ’19) for the Pathways to Regeneration: Soil, Food, and Plant Medicine conference, taking place in Yellow Springs in November, convened by Community Solutions, and sponsored, in part, by Antioch College.
Earlier this spring, she taught Decolonizing Herbalism in an invited residency at School of the Alternative, in Black Mountain, NC. She presented The Antioch Apothecary: Teas and Tinctures, Syrups and Salves at the Society of Ethnobiology conference in Vancouver, B.C. in May, and will present Food, Forage, Farm, Feast: Teaching Reskilling, Sustainability, and Commensality at Antioch College at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education annual conference in Spokane in October.
She has spent the summer making foraged meals with friends, reactivating her indigo vat to dye and sewing shibori shirts, and making lard soap. But by far the most wonderful part of her summer was playing with former students and dear friends Ellie Burck ’18 and Odette Chavez-Mayo’18 in New York City, where both landed jobs after graduating.