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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/5yar-pd06


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

NORMATIVE ECO-RELATIONS: A Debate on Capitalism, Environment, and Disciplinary Exclusions





The expanding field of environmental anthropology navigates critical questions of how to transform our collective humanity in the midst of ecological disasters. The central project to emerge focuses on emergent possibilities and nascent futures beyond ecological destruction. Recovering diverse possibilities of living on a damaged planet (Tsing, et al 2017), anthropologists are taking up experimental projects that speculate on what life might and could be like. Major interventions look to erase the gap between human and nonhuman worlds and broaden the moral community beyond humans (Ingold 2013), for example, by valorizing exemplars • often indigenous ontologies • of life flourishing together, with humans as kin to other species and sentient entities, that have intrinsic rather than instrumental value (Escobar 2018). From within troubled ecologies, anthropology calls for us to "imagine new relationships" between nature and humans, and we are to do so "even as it is clear that things are not working out" (Besky and Blanchette 2019:19). For scholars like McCall Howard (2017), however, the destruction of the environment is a problem of practical human relations that cannot be solved by efforts to seek out idealized connections between humans and their environments. Capitalist relations, she reminds us, are simultaneously destructive to the environment and yet sustaining to billions of people around the world (Cooper 2008), making any sudden shift in political-economic relations on behalf of the environment a potential site of exclusion and resistance by those who depend on extraction for their livelihood••like fishing, farming, logging, and more. Where do people live, but not at the expense of multispecies others? Does our disapproval, however justified, of extractive relations unfairly represent interlocutors as desperate, ignorant, or morally compromised? Meanwhile, such relations continue to have outsized material consequences for the planet. Our panel foments a debate, initiated in a virtual workshop in 2020, on tensions between anthropology's implicit disciplinary values and the predominant ways humans relate with nature • including those we might not like or endorse. We invite scholars whose work traces how anthropology builds consensus around what those relations, meanings, and values should be. Papers may variously share political, existential, and ecological justice concerns motivating normative efforts. They may also critically respond to prescriptive orientations of scholarship that generate gaps, others, and erasures in ways that go largely unquestioned. We aim to make our disciplinary commitments and their potential consequences explicit, as the pursuit of "alternatives" and "outsides" to capital unfold • perhaps at the expense of ethnographic knowledge that could prove useful to diverse strategies of flourishing in uneven environmental futures. We invite scholars from diverse perspectives and contexts to grapple with these difficult questions. In doing so, we hope our panel reflects the plurality of voices and perspectives on this topic. Organizers: Serena Stein (Wageningen University and Research) Brandon Hunter-Pazzara (Princeton University Discussants: Sophie Chao (University of Sydney) Alex Blanchette (Tuffs University)


Transcript English (automatic)

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