National Association of Student Anthropologists
Anthropology of Consciousness
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Throughout the 20-teens, Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) emerged in parallel with key crises of the Anthropocene such as ocean acidification, global warming, and rising sea levels.
As they watch the sea star, once a celebratory assemblage of biotic success, melt into sinister ooze, senses of sorrow and disgust emerge in onlookers. The disintegration of SSWD is haunted by a visceral poetics. As limbs fall off and continue to walk on their own, the salience of body as the definitionally perfect locus of life crumbles. As death comes, not only does the sea star cease life-functioning; the sea star’s corpus undergoes a complete erasure. For most, sea stars act as a talisman for the ocean ecologically and semiotically. Their disintegration shatters their schema of life vs. non-life, alienating the traditional boundaries of what counts as “bios.” As a “keystone” species, the sentimental reactivity expressed by both scientists and laypeople to SSWD imagery contains a prophetic substrate. Alluding to nigh apocalypse, prophecies demonstrate the anxious affect inherent to Anthropocene politics. Thus, the underwater landscape, once a vast, timeless void, has adopted the political-aesthetic role of a “sandbox” in which (citizen) scientists study and design the future Salish Sea. How does a paradigmatically materialist historiography complement and contest science’s attempts to produce an overarching taxonomies and chronologies of decay?
Tracing one ghost of the Anthropocene, this paper responds to the call of Tsing et al. (2017) for more imaginative interventions of citizen science the academic apparatus’ dealings with disease, decay, and disaster.