Books

Book forum: Julie Livington’s Self-Devouring Growth

This article is part of the series:

This book forum brings together seven scholars to discuss Julie Livingston’s Self-Devouring Growth: A Planetary Parable as Told from Southern Africa (Duke 2019), a story of what grows alongside “growth” and the price of “a good life.” Botswana offers lessons that are peopled and elemental; lessons that tug between the local and the global. Livingston shows how water, food, transportation…

Lectures

Events of Disruptive Transformation

This article is part of the series:

We have been discussing the prospects of catastrophes of our own making for decades. We have been debating risks linked to anthropogenic climate change and runaway technologies, trying to fathom even those futures that we otherwise deem unfathomable. Yet it is a known natural risk that wreaks havoc around the globe today.

Events of Surprise

Despite the fact that we …

Features

Life/NonLife: a forum

This Somatosphere forum features essays written in the wake of a debate held at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The debate was organized around the following motion: “Lacking empirical traction and heuristic power, the distinction between life and nonlife is one that anthropology needs to discard.” We hope …

Features

Beach

Beaches are good places to think with about waste and ruination. They were once generically places of waste (in the etymological sense of “unoccupied, uncultivated”) while recognized as actants in processes of ruination—including erosion that produced their defining shingle and sand, the death and decay of what washes up on them, and the shipwrecks they induced. In the industrializing world …

Features

Residue

Waste and toxicity are foundational categories of knowledge for the Anthropocene. Consider how natural scientists approach the topic. Empirically, the “great acceleration” they’ve identified corresponds to a massive increase in human-generated wastes: carbon molecules, toxic chemicals, radioactive particles, plastics, and much more. Measuring molecular concentrations of these materials, and mapping these measurements onto models of earth systems (such as the …

Features

Toxicity, Waste, Detritus: An Introduction

Planet Earth has entered the time of the Anthropocene. For natural scientists, this means that human activity, taken as a whole, has come to rival geological and biophysical forces in its effect on the planet. Disturbing material comparisons communicate the deep weirdness of this fact. For example, there’s now enough concrete on the planet to produce a 2mm thick, full-scale …