labor and work
Environmental sustainability and environmental justice are often characterized as systemic solutions that are attributed to high-tech, highly educated, middle-class worker sectors located in or trained by the global poles of power. Conventionally, Anthropologists have disrupted hegemonic ideas like these by investigating the complex social relations that undergird the labor and productivity in environmental systems at micro, meso, and macro levels. This panel explores the crucial role of the invisible environmental labor that holds our worlds together. Gutierrez will examine how attempts to institutionalize Environmental Justice in the United States’ context of EPA’s Superfund Cleanup Program ultimately shapes the conditions of possibility for what counts as knowledge and labor. Kramer will explore how Upper Myanmar cultivators transplanting commercially valuable and rare species as an invisible form of environmental labor in efforts to sustain biodiversity that points to a truth that they, themselves, advocate: active community cultivation over in situ protections in the form of forest reserves and national commons. Sangaramoorthy will trace how immigrants involved in poultry, agricultural, and seafood industries in rural contexts experience and embody precarity and how it affects their health and well-being through the concept of liminality. Ortiz will discuss how Mexican immigrant women’s expertise is sidelined by intersecting forces including gender role ideals, transnational immigration policies, and employer recruitment practices. Wilhoit will explore how Andean women--dependent upon local ecologies and disproportionately responsible for family well-being--are imagined as invested in sustainability and tasked with environmental labor that becomes inseparable from their ‘domestic’ work as partners, parents and community leaders in the context of the Andes. O’Leary will demonstrate how the everyday politics of washing the city is undergirded by local forms of gendered environmental labor which both reinforce and interrupt traditional water collection urban India. Instead of focusing only on how cultural practices, values, and epistemologies transform the peoplescapes of local and regional case studies, this roundtable asks how depictions of “truths” and “responsibilities” in these systems obscure, address, and challenge standard narratives of what constitutes production and labor in the sustainable future. It argues that without accounting for the invisible environmental labor inherent in sustainability solutions, environmental justice is not a viable reality.