Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Bolivia, a landlocked nation, is literally drying up, and melting glaciers are deeply implicated in this process. Dominant narratives are framing glacial melt as an inexorable force of climate change out of human control, but I explore how glacial melt serves to disguise expanding governance over what is extractable. Specifically, I study glacial retreat in the Bolivian Tropical Andes as both a biophysical process with a distinct spatiotemporal rhythm, and as a set of shifting historical and socio-political relations of people and their environment. By engaging with systems science, political ecology and Povinelli’s (2016) geontopower and sites of potentiality, this project bridges the divide between the natural and human as distinct in the current conversation on climate change. Following Povinelli (2016), I inquire: how does the dynamic process of glacial retreat evade and intersect with the shifts of political governance that determines places of care (Life) and of extraction (Non-life)? How are people interacting with an environment in transformation, that is, shaping it, adapting to it and being affected by it in various ways? What determines which strategies of resistance and endurance persist and which dissolve? I argue that discourses of ‘care’ emerging from the state act as strategies to obscure an ongoing and historical process of capitalist extractive practices that rely on categorizing specific beings as Non-Life. However, sites of glacial melt (in transformation) and indigenous glacial valley inhabitants’ interactions with (and knowledge of) them may provide a lens into what else exists, resists and potentially endures.