Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Air travel has played an important role in the production of anthropological knowledge. Anthropologists who are able to fly, fly to and from fieldsites, conferences, symposiums, and workshops around the world. They fly to give keynote addresses. They fly to get jobs. The relationship between aviation and anthropology has existed for almost a century. Yet the anthropological literature on air travel is thin. This paper examines how air travel did not become subject matter in anthropology until recently. It draws on the black surrealist works of Suzanne Césaire as it traces how the discipline’s “founding fathers” thought about not thinking about aviation and anthropology. It then looks at how their ideas have shaped generations of knowledge-making practices in anthropology. The paper deals with themes such as sight and cite, race and racism, segregation, directionality and dimensionality, and the multiverse. It discusses doing ethnographic fieldwork inside of airliner cabins, explores the extent to which the sky is a viable fieldsite, and questions the stakes of anthropology remaining a “grounded” discipline.