Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Anthropology and Environment Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Anthropocene
Secondary Theme: Environment and Environmental Inequality
How do people make sense of different forms of conflicting environmental information--scientific, expert, institutional, governmental, embodied, sacred, theoretical, mediatized? In this panel we are interested in how actors navigate conflicting understandings and sensibilities of their environments. How do these shape their material relationships with other living and non-living beings? To what extent are the physical surroundings and multi-species relationships of these lifeworlds remade as a result of how they are understood and known? These ecologies of knowledge, beings, and things emerge not just from actions and practices but also how something is known and sensed. Thus, the circulation of diverse knowledges about environmental assemblages has high stakes: cultivating and deteriorating sustainable relationships, cohabitation and endangerment, predicting and assessing crisis, consuming energy and power, intensifying and deterring pollution, assessing environmental risk and potential disaster.
In a context of Big Data, mediatization and highly accessible (dis)information, social actors confront a proliferation of (dis)information about their everyday worlds, from the creatures that inhabit them to the particles in the sky to the food they ingest. These ways of knowing are predicated on diverse ontologies and ethics, as well as modes of governance, social relationships, and objectives. The consumption of blueberries, for example, depends on its its constitution and flavor, its recognized nutritional value, its circulation and perception as a “superfood,” and the conditions of its production. The long white streams that trail airplanes may be merely the engine’s emissions or a government scheme of chemical pollutants. A spike in radon may be a warning sign for a coming earthquake or a physical correlation with earthquakes that has been scientifically rejected as a predictor. Likewise, frigid temperatures and stunted crops might be attributed to mega-dams, or melting glaciers seen as an outcome of wars and militarism. What we know might transform any of these entities into quite divergent understandings, as well as our responses, actions and future plans. The panel attempts to parse and slow down the epistemological process in order to highlight how knowledge shapes and makes ecological relationships and worlds.