Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Usha Rao (Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi)
What if we took bodies and their capacities to move, affect, and contaminate (Massumi 2002; Stewart 2009; Stoller 1997), as the primary actors of ethnographic correspondence, rather than the vision privileged by the singular participant observer? This presentation explores this possibility in contemporary Bengaluru, a city whose repute as India’s Silicon Valley has generated unencumbered speculative growth (Goldman 2011) and significant ecological challenges for continued inhabitation in and around city limits. Its 12 million human inhabitants face chronic water shortages, depleting green spaces, chronic contamination of soil, air, and aquifers, and renewed epidemiological threats from untreated sewage and improper solid waste disposal (Nagendra 2016; ESG 2018). Under these conditions, city inhabitants not only confront themselves as a ‘geological force’, but archive geological affects in multiple sites of embodiment (Chakrabarty 2008; Latour 2017; Danowski and de Castro 2016).
What ethnographic forms do we take when attending to the affective fields released by these multiple ecologies? Framed as a collaborative correspondence expressed in poetry, creative non-fiction, and image-making, we explore how ethnography in the anthropocene may require us to attend to ecologies of affect—linguistic, non-linguistic, and pre-linguistic sign-making that register first in the body—as we enter into and come to contain human and non-human ecologies (Bateson 2000; Kohn 2013). How can new forms of ethnographic correspondence resonate with the arts of living in damaged cities (Haraway 2016; Tsing et al 2017)?