Calendar 2018-2019

During the 2018-2019 academic year, EST will be held in Room 105 in the Yale University Department of Anthropology at 10 Sachem Street, New Haven.


September 17, 2018

Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology, MIT

“Wave Science and Its Forms, North and South”

Do ocean waves have a history? The question may sound odd: surely waves are simple facts of nature, matters of the substance of the sea. Waves may have diverse manifestations in marine and maritime lore, a variety of effects on economic and political enterprise, and a range of meanings for fishers, surfers, and swimmers. But as formal and material entities, the standard view might say, they are best known by a science arriving at ever-improving models of oscillation, undulation, and movement. Historians of oceanography have complicated such a view, documenting the changing systems through which scientists and seafarers have known waves. This presentation will go further, looking toward a future in which waves are not only known differently (though new kinds of computer modeling, for example) but also become differently composed material phenomena than once they were. Today’s wave scientists and modelers are predicting that climate change may not only transform the global distribution of significant wave heights, but also may also (though the claim is controversial) amplify the frequency of rogue waves, changing the world’s wavescape in novel ways. This presentation will deliver an anthropological account of ocean wave modeling to anchor an ethnographic report on how scientists think about whether waves (canonically imagined as not evolving, not decaying, but repeating, periodic — cyclical avatars of the ceaseless sea) may be transforming in synchrony with the political, economic, and social scene of the Anthropocene. The talk will also attend to how such dynamics may different across hemispheres, offering a possible wave theory from the South.


October 8, 2018

Michael Ralph, Associate Professor, New York University

“Before 13th: The Origin of Convict Leasing”

This talk pushes back against the widespread impression that convict leasing begins with the 13th Amendment. It shows instead, that it began several decades prior at the Kentucky Penitentiary. When Kentucky began as an outpost of Virginia in the years following the American Revolution, legislators promoted a vision for criminal justice reform that Thomas Jefferson had designed but was not able to institutionalize in his native state. Kentuckians wanted criminal statutes that were more humane—where the punishment fit the crime instead of being an opportunity to enact vengeance. Instead, Kentucky would institutionalize the nation’s first convict-lease system three decades before it was replicated in southern states searching for ways to extract profits from the formerly enslaved. Convict leasing is widely seen as an effort to preserve the southern plantation system. But, those Kentuckians who owned slaves usually did not have very many by comparison. The crops harvested in this state were not conducive to plantation agriculture and Kentuckians were adamant that enslaved workers not compete with free citizens for industry jobs. As such, I demonstrate that convict leasing was not an outgrowth of plantation justice but the byproduct of a liberal reform project that intersected with new possibilities for profit in the first few decades of the nineteenth century. In tracing these possibilities, my talk illuminates the unique intersection of race, skill, gender, geography, and ability that explains how convict leasing emerged when it did, where it did, and how it did.


November 5, 2018

Zoe Todd, Visiting Assistant Professor, Yale University and Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Carleton University

“Fossil fuels and fossil kin: re-imagining Alberta’s ‘Energy Heritage’ through a Métis feminist lens”

Alberta, Canada is home to immense oil and gas deposits, which drive both the provincial and national economy. In 2017, the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta launched an exhibit titled ‘Grounds for Discovery’, which features fossil specimens uncovered by mining and other industrial activities in the province. One specimen is a ‘nodosaur’, Borealopelta markmitchelli, preserved such that it is referred to by Royal Tyrrell staff as a ‘3D fossil’. This specimen was discovered in a Suncor tar sands mine in northern Alberta. In this talk, I examine the relationships between fossil fuels and fossil kin in the Alberta public imaginary, and what these relationships mean for contemporary efforts to disrupt settler colonial logics of extraction that are impacting watersheds across Indigenous territories throughout the province.


December 4, 2018

Julia Elyachar, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University

“Neoliberalism, Rationality, and the Savage Slot”

In this paper, I upend usual discussions of neoliberal governmentality by focusing on the relation of neoliberalism to the irrational. The central task of neoliberalism in its early days was to resurrect a discredited liberalism. WWI and the problematic Treaty of Versailles in 1919 convinced many that irrationality lay at the core of the “civilized” European world. These debates drew in intellectuals and polemicists from the German speaking world we now read separately in anthropology, economics (of a particular kind), sociology, political science, and law. Putting this broader context into view can help us move beyond seminal readings of neoliberalism such as Foucault (1978), Harvey (2007), and Brown (2015) to take in mutations of neoliberalism during this centenary year of the Versailles Peace of 1919.Those who became neo-liberal (before the hyphen was eliminated) embraced that which was irrational while resolutely attacking all kinds of collectivism. Early neoliberals such as von Mises equated socialists with savages and put socialists in what Michel-Rolph Trouillot would call “The Savage Slot,” thanks to their willful overthrow of the free market price system, without which rationality itself could not exist. Hayek and the next generation of neoliberals shifted the source of irrationality into the physiology of individual humans. To make my arguments, I draw on ethnography and coeval projects of theory making in anthropology and neo-liberal economics.


February 11, 2019

Matthew Hull, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Michigan

“Microbiota of the State: Police Procedure and Corporate Customers Service in India”

In 2013 the Indian state of Punjab contracted with a corporation to operate a new police phone helpline. The corporation not only takes complaints but also monitors, directs, and reports police response to them. This talk explores the tensions and effects of using American techniques of customer service to promote procedural justice within police practices in India.  It will explore the ideological, procedural, communicational, and technological practices through which police procedure is combined with corporate customer service.  Moving beyond a concern with privatization, it reconceptualizes how to understand the involvement of outside actors within the state operations.


March 4, 2019

Amelia Moore, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Coastal Tourism and Recreation, University of Rhode Island

“Islands in the Anthropocene: three stories of transition and transformation”

The global event of climate change is experienced locally in highly specific ways.  Cultural geographies, like the small island, have emerged or taken on new dimensions within the crucible of global change, and it is now common knowledge that small islands are the “canaries in the coal mine” of climate change and sea level rise.  However, the Anthropocene is about far more than climate change, and islands have taken on renewed significance in the Anthropocene in unexpected ways.  This talk will provide examples from The Bahamas, Indonesia, and coastal New England that reveal the development of emergent island infrastructures for the Anthropocene.  These infrastructures materialize contemporary concerns over adaptation and development in the face of perceived change.  Through these examples, I ask: what can transforming islands in the Anthropocene teach us about relations in our present and new possibilities for the future?


April 1, 2019

Sophia Roosth, Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professor in History of Science, Harvard University

“Twenty Years is a Long Time”

The rocks beneath Oman archive the Ediacaran Period, which spans 94 million years. This paper reports on my travels in Oman with the Ediacaran Subcommission, which travels the world seeking particular rocks that might be reliable markers for subdividing the long stretch of the Ediacaran into intervals that mark global transformations in earth history. How do geologists and geobiologists working amidst (and, in some ways, in the service of) a liminal Omani modernity rethink geological periodization by suturing peripheral sites into something that is not spatially centralized, but temporally synchronized? I turn to conceptual history to argue that timekeeping in geobiology is in tension with and at times mutually informative of recent modernist approaches to temporality that bypass questions of the relation of the local to the global by interrogating the work by which historical time is synchronized across multiple provincial places. The effect of such time-keeping, for geobiologists and stratigraphers, is a self-consciously constructed “global” time achieved by collaboratively coordinating rocks of the same vintage that appear in “out of the way” places. I conclude by ruminating on how efforts to carve up the geologic record echo problems of periodization that plague historians, anthropologists, and social theorists.


April 22, 2019

Kamau Ware, Artist and Historian, Black Gotham Experience

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