Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: The entwined crises of capitalism and climate change alter everything (Klein 2014). On the one hand, these onrushing disasters are exaggerating already-severe forms of dispossession, displacement, and disturbance. Whether the violence is swift or slow (Nixon 2011), whether it takes the form of flood or forest fire, deindustrialization or commodity collapse, the damaged landscapes of the Anthropocene proliferate with multispecies livability at stake. On the other hand, crisis has the power to galvanize relations of care, encouraging emergent forms of solidarity, affect, and more-than-human mutualism. Disturbance, as Anna Tsing (2015) reminds, can destroy as well as renew. At once profoundly precarious and yet potentially generative, what indeed are the possibilities for life in economic and ecological ruins? What, we ask, is the task of ethnography in the aftermath?
This panel queries the fallout of economic and environmental crisis, exploring the extremes of disaster capitalism, the havoc of boom and bust, and the hesitant hope that emerges from blasted landscapes (Kirskey et al. 2011). We ask: How does the acceleration of anthropogenic disturbance expose new frontiers for capital and commodification? How do those most vulnerable to its disparate effects, in zones of sacrifice or abandonment (Povinelli 2011), manage to cope and/or collaboratively survive? How might crisis engender (or not) the latent commons (Tsing 2015) of community economies, mutual aid, and multispecies interdependence? What, in other words, emerges in the aftermath of the co-produced crises of capitalism and climate?
This session also examines what these entangled emergencies entail for ethnography itself. Does it call for ever more incisive expositions of the extraordinary and everyday trauma of those most ravaged by economic and ecological ruination? Does it obligate us to move “beyond the suffering subject” (Robbins 2015; Ortner 2016) to emphasize emerging forms of coexistence, cooperation, and care? As anthropologists, what might attending to the aftermath of such crises entail conceptually and substantively? How might it shift our subjects/objects of ethnographic concern? Finally, how might we problematize the notions of “crisis” and “care” themselves, exposing the underlying (anti)political, affective, and discursive work the designations so-often disguise (Masco 2014)?
This panel strives to stay with the trouble throughout, attentive to conditions of both crisis and care. In doing so it takes seriously the way things fall apart as well as how they come back together again; in other words, how death (potentially) recomposes into life (Lyons 2015). Papers offer diverse ethnographic vantage points examining: resilience and ruination in post-hurricane Dominica; life after coal in Appalachia; crop loss and insect care in the Himalayas, and “crisis” in the Malagasy vanilla boom. The final paper argues that conditions of crisis must provoke a renewed commitment to anthropology as caregiving. Responding to the call to examine what emerges from damaged landscapes, these papers collectively probe climates of crisis, at once exposing economic and environmental disruption as the precarious condition of troubled times while also foregrounding emergent forms of life cultivated in its aftermath.