The Role and Functioning of Cultural Scripts in Farming and Agriculture



We advocate an increased utilisation of script theory in rural social research and suggest this will enhance understandings of the social life of farmers and other rural residents. We define a script as a culturally shared expression, story or common line of argument, or an expected unfolding of events, that is deemed to be appropriate or expected in a particular socially defined context, and that provides a rationale or justification for a particular issue or course of action. We suggest there are four types of script: (1) a socially perceived routine or expected sequence of events; (2) a catch-phrase, metaphor or allegory that is frequently recited in response to a particular issue or situation; (3) a mini-story, narrative or parable; and (4) a commonly used line of argument that is widely invoked in response to a particular issue or situation. Using examples from our work with farmers in the UK and Australia relating to animal health and biosecurity, and specifically bovine tuberculosis, we demonstrate how scripts affect the perceived management options of farmers in particular circumstances. We suggest that scripts have implications for policymakers and those seeking to promote practice change such as agricultural extension staff and agricultural veterinarians.