Oral Presentation Session - Cosponsored Status Awarded
Sponsored by: Anthropology and Environment Society
Cosponsored by: Society for Humanistic Anthropology
Primary Theme: Anthropocene
Secondary Theme: Science
To call something or someone synthetic, artificial, fake, or a fraud presupposes a normative state of being that is seen as real, natural, and authentic. In a world increasingly defined by digital subjectivities, artificial intelligence, fake news, and a premium on all things “natural,” research into the dividing lines between the bona-fide and the bogus is not only timely in light of transforming ways in which humans interact with the world but reflects deep traditions in anthropology, which has long turned towards tricksters, fakes, and fraudsters to elucidate taken-for-granted truths regarding the constitutions of cultural and material worlds. While a rich vein of scholarship exists around public debates about things that seemed genuine but turned out to be fake, what distinguishes this set of papers is their focus on the particular processes and mediums that produce and regulate tensions of authenticity and authority. Collectively, the papers bring us through settings of commodity laboratories, industrial greenhouses, tropical rainforests, and computer simulations to examine the intersecting political, epistemological, ecological, and existential dimensions of what is real, what is not, and who decides. These papers not only bring into to focus the distinct politics and pressures that divide the natural and the artificial, but do so in a way that challenges the boundaries between them. While questions of fake and phony tend to produce a binary of either/or, these papers all grapple with cases where these dividing lines are blurry – where synthetic vanilla is deemed natural, where carbon fibers of personal meaning constitute synthetic diamonds, where artificial intelligence elicits affective human responses, where medical fraudsters become noted naturalists, where meat can be synthesized without animal bodies, and where flower production both is and is not a sign of contemporary development. It is this messy middle between the bogus and the bona-fide that is increasingly defining nature in the anthropocene.