Lectures

The life of the coral body

Life comes apart on the reef. Changes to ocean chemistry and temperature—generated by the fossil-hunger of militarism, extractivism, and industrialism—break open coral worlds on Australia’s northeast coast. Encountering death’s ascendency on the Great Barrier Reef, scientists seek to track coral life by descending within: to study limestone structures, the tiny polyps that build them, and the microscopic symbiotic algae that …

Lectures

Seeking Urban Metabolisms through Archaeology

The metabolism of a city is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in its archaeology. Decades of excavations triggered by cultural heritage management legislation in Melbourne, Australia reveal a city honeycombed with rubbish pits. Disused cesspits (old-fashioned long-drop toilets), purpose-dug holes and localised dumps filled to the brim with rubbish remain below the factories, office buildings and car parks we see …

Lectures

Who feeds (on) whom? Labour and the porosity of environments and bodies

Hannah Landecker writes about the new metabolism as “a model in which food enters the body and in a sense never leaves it, because food transforms the organism’s being as much as the organism transforms it” (2011: 177). Articulating Landecker’s insights into the porosity of bodies through an anthropological lens, Harris Solomon (2016) offers an ethnography of absorption in the …

Lectures

Social Soils and Chimerical Metabolisms

The metabolic rift

“All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil,” Marx (1976: 637-38) wrote in Volume I of Capital. For Marx, not only was the capitalist mode of production incapable of valuing nature in its own right, but its central contradictions also left it …

Lectures

Feeble-mindedness, depression and obesity: a brief history of eugenics and dietary interventions in Australia

In October 2019 the Australian Productivity Commission (APC) released a report stating that mental health cost employers $4.7 billion AUD in absenteeism. The report also highlighted significant government expenditure on health services as well as intangible costs on committees. Over the past decade there have also been a number of reports from federal and state governments on the economic and …

Lectures

Gloves, embryos, and DDT: thinking with surfaces on toxicity in South Africa

In the early 1980s, researchers at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa were confounded by the persistent failure of their experimental mice embryos. The researchers had hoped to develop the first successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) programme in Africa. Yet, attempt after attempt, the mice embryos died. One researcher recounted to me later that he reviewed other protocols and …