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.
I’ve written a summary of my time at the recent Anthropocene Campus Philadelphia (ACP) for the Deakin Science & Society Network. The post is here and has lots of links about ‘the Anthropocene,’ the Campus concept, and some interesting tweets from the event. Huge thanks to Scott Knowles and the folks at Drexel University for putting on this great event.
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).
By chairing the seminar series committee at the Institute for Culture & Society last year, I realised I enjoy this kind of organising. It’s exciting to help collaborate in assembling a conversation, or relay of conversations, over a whole year. This year I am co-convening the Deakin Anthropology Seminar Series with my colleague David Boarder Giles. We’ve got an exciting line-up (see it here) and some big plans about additional ways we can make the seminars and their speakers available. You can subscribe to our mailing list (!!) here. The first of the series is this coming week…
David Boarder Giles, ‘Towards an Anthropology of Abject Economies’
Date: Thursday 2nd March
Location: Deakin Waterfront AD1.122 (also: Burwood C2.05, VMP TBC)
Where do things go when they are lost, discarded, or forgotten? What social afterlives do they lead? And perhaps more importantly, whose lives are constituted among the detritus? Through an exploration of such questions, and the larger patterns that emerge from them, I sketch out new directions for an anthropology of value, one that looks beyond the horizons of capital towards the futures that lie in its ruins.
To that end, we will explore what might constitute an abject economy—an economy built precisely on the abjection and abandonment of people, places, and things. What pathways of devalorization and desuetude might be its conditions of possibility? What emergent forms of life endure, for example, in the interstices of capital? What non-market practices and regimes of value are possible within its folds?
Giles develops both a theoretical framework for future research, and an ethnographic description from his own work with dumpster-divers, squatters, and other scavengers in several “global” cities in North America. These scavengers cultivate, in a very real sense, minor economies, putting into circulation those surpluses—people, places, and things alike—discarded by the prevailing markets and publics of these cities. They present us with one model of an abject economy: non-market forms of surplus value and labor, simultaneously made possible and necessary by the vicissitudes of capital accumulation.
These economies are paradoxes, neither separable from, nor commensurable with the logic of market exchange. Such economies hold profound lessons for the anthropology of the twenty-first century—in which market-centric, “neoliberal” regimes of value seem to have eclipsed so many other forms of economy. In a moment when there seems to be no “outside” to capitalism, we may yet discover its margins, and there may we not only learn a great deal about the ontological grounds of capital itself, but also discover existing and emergent modes of valuing otherwise. Giving an account of these dynamics and paradoxes, I will argue, will be one of anthropology’s key challenges in the coming years.
David Boarder Giles is a Lecturer in Anthropology at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. He writes about cultural economies of waste and homelessness, and the politics of urban food security and public space, particularly in “global” cities. He has done extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Seattle and other cities in the United States and Australasia with dumpster divers, urban agriculturalists, grassroots activists, homeless residents, and chapters of Food Not Bombs—a globalized movement of grassroots soup kitchens. You can read excerpts of his work at his blog.
An article I co-wrote with my friend and colleague Eve Vincent (Macquarie) has just gone up online. It won’t be in an ‘issue’ of TAJA for some time – this is how publishing works now – but it’s out there, for all intents and purposes.
The 1970s witnessed the emergence of a protest-based environmental movement in Australia. We outline here the history of the unstable meeting of environmentalism and Aboriginal interests, before turning to Marcia Langton’s recent critique of the progressive ‘green left’ in Australia.1 We summarise Langton’s argument: environmentalists would deny Aboriginal groups the benefits that flow from native title-related agreements; environmentalists live at luxurious distance from the realities of remote and rural Aboriginal poverty and social problems; environmentalists exalt ‘noble savages’. We critique these claims on the basis that they pay inadequate attention to the structural inequities that underpin the market in native title interests and, further, deny the reality that Aboriginal groups often seek to form strategic alliances with green groups, arguing for conservation of their country on their own—or shared—terms. We argue that any appraisal of the present status of ‘green-black’ relations needs to consider these factors seriously.
I have an essay in the new issue of Meanjin titled ‘Roads to Coen: Cape York and the infrastructure of wilderness’. The essay is about settler colonialism, infrastructure, and the time I had a car crash and is based on the opening to a chapter of my thesis. The essay starts something like this:
I was driving south on the Peninsula Development Road (PDR) in the early afternoon of a dry season day when, ten kilometres north of the Archer River crossing, my four-wheel-drive went into a sidelong slide. Within a few seconds the car came to a shuddering halt, inverted in a ditch, its headlights now facing back towards the Lockhart River turnoff. What happened next escapes me, but some specifics remain: a plume of red dust entering the cabin through the driver’s side window; a line of blood travelling down my arm onto the right hand that held me up against the shattered windscreen; I told myself out loud to get out of the car. Crawling out of the vehicle, my foremost thought was that I had been the subject to a significant clerical error that could be set right through appeal to an unknown cosmic authority.
The new issue is out March 18th (I think) and available from “all good bookshops” etc.
Part 1 of piece I wrote on ‘the social life of science in policy and planning’ and the work I have been doing on the Scientific diversity, scientific uncertainty and risk mitigation policy and planning project is up now at the BNHCRC website.