Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Anthropology and Environment Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists
Primary Theme: Borders
Secondary Theme: Environment and Environmental Inequality
On the shores of the Dead Sea, sinkholes render territory uninhabitable and ripe for settler colonialism at the same time. The “sea nomadic” Bajau Laut are excluded from citizenship rights in both Malaysia and Indonesia, and are now being denied access to their traditional sea gathering grounds by the imposition of marine protected areas. An invasive fern colonizes a national park and biodiversity hotspot in south India while in New Zealand native birds are the subject of conservation practices that call into question what matter matters and at what scale. In Florida, the biological materiality of citrus as a cash crop catalyzes the organization of the human workforce in the H-2A program while in Argentina, the Mothers of Ituzaingó work to enforce buffer zones to protect their families from glyphosate poisoning.
These cases raise critical questions about how territorial projects work in the context of increased economic, ecological, and social precarity (Tsing 2015). This is one of a two-panel series designed to critically question how territory and territorial practices adapt in an era of profound flux in which entire socio-natural systems are moving in space or changing beyond recognition at the hands of climate change, human and non-human migratory flows are shifting course and speed, and global connections of various kinds are intensifying or disintegrating. At the same time, territorial projects that seek to limit, contain, and manage this fluidity and complexity with the end goals of control and legibility abound (Besky and Padwe 2016). Territory has often been understood in terms of the state’s attempt at exerting its power over space, exercising its claims to sovereignty, but we can understand diverse sorts of projects as territorial. How, these panels ask, does territory and territoriality work amidst movement and change—and how can thinking about diverse projects through a lens of territoriality help us see otherwise obscured dynamics? These panels propose new anthropologies of territory using ethnographic situations in which precarity, movement, and materiality are foregrounded. By considering efforts to fix—in the sense of locate, link to, arrest, but perhaps also in the sense of to make right—dynamic processes of movement through territorial practices, the series seeks to offer new approaches to territory and territoriality.
This panel examines territory-making practices in diverse contexts including conservation areas, biological research laboratories, and oceans in an effort to expand discussions of territory to include the vibrancy and unruliness of matter. We ask how territory and territory-making work is characterized by relations of collaboration and conflict, and how the various actors involved both imagine and materialize resistance, resilience, and adaptation. Given the dynamic of increased rates of environmental (and otherwise) change and intensifying efforts to fix territory, the cases presented explore issues of territoriality and overlapping territorial projects, and entailed dynamics of legibility, surveillance, classification, border-making, and boundary work. The panel seeks to reinvigorate the concept of territory as a theoretical tool to understand contemporary configurations of space and capital in human-environment interactions.