Society for East Asian Anthropology
Anthropology And Environment Society
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Sensory experiences of “bad air” animate engagements with the Gareev Botanical Garden in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. During the winter, as burning coal warmed spaces and heated water, the Botanical Garden offered a free lecture on house plants, explaining that well-selected plants could help clean the “unsafe” air. In the spring, plans to widen roads to improve traffic circulation included paving over a section of the Botanical Garden. The director of the Botanical Garden explained that the plan would mean the destruction of 300 trees, which “clean the air” and “protect the Botanical Garden from the winds”—she argued that the trees around the Botanical Garden's edge made the air gentle and purified, an important component of a micro-climate for endangered plants. As Bishkek residents sensed the worsening air both inside and outside their homes, the Botanical Garden staff reminded them that the air was continually being remade by plants. This paper explores how sensory experiences and affective responses to air animated efforts to maintain the Botanical Garden’s funding, territory and research programs. It examines the more-than-human assemblages remaking air, garden, and city.