It’s been too long, time for an update:

Summer is almost over and so the annual semi-hibernation of drafting grant proposals, journal articles and other various reports and project documents is also coming to a close. A few quick things to update on:

  • The Anthropocene Campus Melbourne (ACM18) is now open for applications. Applications close at midnight AEDT on Tuesday 3 April – which is soon! We are super-excited about the line-up, including keynotes from Karen Barad, Hannah Landecker and Margaret Jolly, and a clutch of parallel art shows at Testing Grounds.
  • There’ll be a few different events leading up to ACM18, including a writing workshop on 20 April at Deakin Downtown that is based around the theme of ‘writing slow disaster’. The Call for Participants and info is here. Applications close 12 March.
  • The Conversations in Anthroplogy@Deakin podcast rolls on! Episode 8 was posted a couple of weeks ago, featuring a great conversation between David, Elana Resnick (UCSB) and Chloe Ahmann about waste, value theory, puns and lots of other interesting things. I do not do work on waste but I find it a really fascinating a lively area of scholarship right now. Later this week I’ll be posting Episode 9, which is a conversation between myself, Andy Stirling (SPRU, Sussex) and Matthew Kearnes (UNSW) that happened during the recent ‘Crisis of Expertise‘ conference here in Melbourne.
  • Speaking of podcasts, the folks at The Familiar Strange just posted an episode with my colleague Elizabeth Watt that it worth checking out. The interview was recorded prior to recent #MeToo and #MeTooAnthro (link) discussions, but touches on a lot of very live questions in the discipline about gender dynamics and fieldwork.
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Announcing​: the Anthropocene Campus Melbourne will be held 3-6 September 2018

Announcing…

Anthropocene Campus Melbourne

Dates: 3-6 September 2018

Location: Deakin Downtown and other venues, Melbourne, Australia

Hosted by Deakin University’s Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation and Deakin Science and Society Network in partnership with the University of New South Wales Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Centro de Investigación para la Gestión del Riesgo de Desastres (CIGIDEN).

Debates over the past decade about the existence and start date of ‘the Anthropocene’ – or, the age of the human – have provided an important prompt for academics, artists and others to critically reconsider how knowledge is produced and reproduced. What forms of critique, knowledge-making and collaboration are needed to meet the challenges we now face? Building on the success of other campuses in Berlin, Philadelphia and elsewhere, Melbourne will be the stage for an Anthropocene Campus in 2018 following the meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) in Sydney on 29 August–1 September 2018. Across the four days of ACM18 participants will engage in a range of lectures, field trips, and workshops in Melbourne and the wider area exploring the theme of ‘The Elemental’.

Applications to participate in ACM18 will open in early 2018. PhD candidates, Humanities, Arts and Social Science scholars at all levels, as well as artists, physical scientists, engineers, and other practitioners, will be encouraged to apply. For now, sign up for updates and news about ACM18 here: http://eepurl.com/deSecz Or contact us at: anthrocampusmelb@gmail.com

 

Anthropology@Deakin Episode #6: Eve Vincent

In the sixth episode of the Anthropology@Deakin podcast, David Giles and I discuss land rights and creativity with Eve Vincent (Macquarie University). Dr Vincent – a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University – is the author of Against Native Title’: Conflict and Creativity in Outback Australia (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2017), the co-editor (with me!) of Unstable Relations: Environmentalism and Indigenous People in Contemporary Australia (University of Western Australia Press, 2016), and she has also written for rich variety of academic and literary journals. Her work engages with ideas of indigeneity, recognition and governmentality, and she has written on issues such as native title, intercultural collaboration, and welfare quarantining. She has a long-term ethnographic engagement with the town of Ceduna in South Australia.

You can find the podcast at Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher. It’d very cool if you could rate, review and subscribe to us!

Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) conference, Sydney 2018

Next year, the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) conference will be held in Australia for the first time (29 August – 1 September). It’s an exciting development for Science and Technology Studies (STS) in the Asia-Pacific and, in particular, Australia – a place where STS has a pretty robust history and is on the rise again. I’ve been fortunate enough to be included in the  Programming Committee for the 2018 conference so I will be posting some conference-related material now and then. The first item of business is that the conference now has a website and the call for open panels is up (proposals due 1st November). Thanks to the diligent (and voluntary!) efforts of a number of different people there is also a range of translations of the conference theme here, including in Yolngu matha (the story of which is told here).


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An Alberta fieldnote

For the past week, I have been in the province of Alberta – the one in Canada – doing some fieldwork on a couple of bushfire (or, here, ‘wildfire’) projects. The first is an extension of a previous project funded the BNHCRC, involving case studies of areas where natural hazard management agencies have used science to reform how they measure and manage risk. One place we looked at previously, for example, was the Barwon-Otway area in southwest Victoria – the one in Australia – where bushfire managers were using a computer program that simulates variously severe bushfires in order to: a) map the level of ‘risk’ out there in the landscape, and; b) understand how things like prescribed burning were impacting that risk (or not). Now, thanks to some funding from the Alberta government, some colleagues and I are working with wildfire managers in Lac La Biche and Edmonton, discussing how they are attempting to do something similar by mapping ‘wildfire hazard’ (meaning: the potential for fire) against ‘values and assets’ (meaning: things deemed publicly important) in the Lac La Biche Forest Area. In both of these cases, as in others we have studied, what may look like a technical exercise in dry calculation is actually also a political and social exercise, where practitioners improvise and make choices about what can be measured, what should be measured, and whose opinion matters. To revisit some Ranciere, it’s a matter of what counts and how it is made to count.

Lac La Biche County, to put it briefly, is a frontier of oil, timber and pastoral extractivism. The northern and eastern part of county are dotted with large oil sands projects, tapped into the Athabasca and Cold Lake oil fields using the steam-assisted gravity drainage (or ‘SAGD‘) process (some photos of projects here). First surveyed in 1848, there was no mining of these sands until 1967 and prospecting and extraction did not really ramp up until the 1980s, and then again after 2001. As Lorna Stefanick points out, events such as Nigeria’s civil war, conflict in Iraq, and hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico helped turn ‘previously prohibitively expensive’ energy options like oil sands into ‘an attractive alternative’ to oil from the Middle East and elsewhere. Development of the oil sands was aided, too, by the perception in the USA that Albertan oil was both ‘domestic’ and (comparatively?) ‘ethical’ (for more I suggest Shrivastava and Stefanick’s OA collection, and Laurie Adkin’s collection). Now, Alberta is a ‘petro-province,’ with approximately 30 percent of its GDP, 70 percent of its exports, and over a third of government revenue coming directly from the oil and gas sector.

What does this mean for wildfire management? For one, it means that there is an enormous amount of above-ground private infrastructure weaving through the forests of Lac La Biche County, much of which has been built in the past decade. Second, these same forests are now host to an enormous but ephemeral workforce, sweeping in to build new pipelines and then sweeping out, leaving only very small maintenance crews. Whereas Lac La Biche County has an estimated resident population around 9,000 people, just one SAGD project ‘workcamp’ (as they’re called) can be as large as 16,000 people or, at another moment, a few hundred people. These camps can be self-contained towns – with post offices and transnational chains such as Starbucks – their populations expanding and contracting with the pulse of international oil investment. Unsurprisingly, it is very hard for others – such as wildfire managers – to know at any one time how many people are present, and therefore how many lives are at risk in a given wildfire event. This is in some ways a data problem, as it is possible that in some future system wildfire managers would have better surveillance of their populations. But there is a more subtle political question here, which is about the extent to which these camps are ‘public’ assets, worthy of protection by government agencies? The 2016 Fort McMurray fires, north of Lac La Biche County, interrupted extraction from the Athabasca field, with an estimated financial impact somewhere in the region of CAD$10 billion (roughly 3-4% of Alberta’s GDP). Given the potential financial impact of a major wildfire, and that Alberta’s oil economies are widely understood as a ‘public good,’ the big question is where should wildfire agencies place these camps in amongst their many priorities?

 

Below, the Lac La Biche Fire Centre.

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Short interview on The Pantograph Punch

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my friend Joseph Nunweek about Wild Articulations, or ‘about the book’s origins, approaching a deeply local matter as a transplanted Kiwi, and knowing when to stop’. The Pantograph Punch, for those who do not know it, is a great Aotearoa-based arts and culture website that also puts on various events from time to time.

As it says at the end of the piece, if you’re in Melbourne, you can head to the book’s Melbourne launch at the Institute for Postcolonial Studies in North Melbourne on Tuesday 8 April. It’ll feature a panel discussion with myself, Chris Healy, Cameo Dalley and Jon Altman.