Cymene and Dominic talk true crime and Pruitt crime on this week’s podcast before (13:59) welcoming the fabulous Liz Roberts from the University of Michigan to the conversation. Our offspeed start features the legend of Mick Taussig’s formica table before Liz tells us how she became interested in building bridges between anthropology and epigenetic science and found her way to the ELEMENT study, which has been investigating the impact of chemical exposure upon Mexican children since the 1990s. We talk genes, bodies and environments and Liz links deterministic models of the gene to infrastructures of impermeability that flourished (for some) during the mid 20th century. Turning to her NSF funded fieldwork in Mexico City, Liz shares what she learned about how borders matter and why she is cautious to embrace “entanglement” as an analytical norm. We talk about white middle class anxieties about exposure and permeability and how they compare with sentiments in Mexico. This leads us to her recent work on water and trust and how Coca Cola made people in Mexico City not trust the tap water. And that gets us to soda and its relationship to class and care. Finally we turn to Liz’s latest project, “Mexican Exposures” (mexicanexposures.com) and her interdisciplinary approach to collaborative bioethnography.
After Cymene and Dominic take a moment to call out for profit academic publishing and cheerleading, this week’s podcast brings you (16:00) the keynote panel from CENHS’s Cultures of Energy 7 symposium, which explored the art, craft and significance of making alternate worlds. The conversation features famed Egyptian artist Ganzeer (The Solar Grid) celebrated novelist Jeff VanderMeer (Annihilation, Borne) in conversation with Cymene (Unda) about worldmaking in the context of our the ecological crises besetting our planet and its species. All three explain their approaches to storytelling and worldmaking and the conversation that follows (43:51) ranges widely from what kinds of new opportunities for story-making our contemporary ecological conditions offer us to the dangers of colonial and racialized imaginations carrying over into alternate worlding practices and how we break free of old systems of thought to imagine true alternatives to the status quo. Special thanks to Caroline Levander for moderating the discussion!! PS If you haven’t checked out the amazing virtual SCA conference, Displacements 2018, you should (!) and can at http://displacements.jhu.edu
Dominic and Cymene plug Cultures of Energy 7—this year’s energy humanities symposium at Rice which begins today, details at culturesofenergy.org—and then they turn to cheese, why it’s funny, how it can be applied to cats, “cheddaring,” and much more. Is there an anthropologist who knows more about cheese than anyone? Yes of course there is, it’s MIT’s Heather Paxson, author of the award-winning The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America (U California Press, 2012). She joins us (14:59) to talk about her research on the microbiopolitics of food and naturally we begin with what’s in her fridge. Heather tells us about her investigation of artisanal cheesemaking and what it tells us about the shift from Pasteurian to Post-Pasteurian regimes of microbiopower. We hear about goat ladies as revolutionaries, the truth about vegan cheese, and debate whether artisanal foodmaking is an elite project. Heather discusses the search for moral meaning in everyday life as a throughline in her work and we turn to her latest research on food safety inspections, the porosity of food borders and the synecdochic reasoning of the state when it comes to managing food flows. We close by discussing the impact of feminist analytics of labor in her research. What is “beef candy China”? Listen on and you might just find out!
Dominic and Cymene discuss the Houston city government’s recent decision to elevate new homes in the floodplains and they take a few moments to plan their dream dinner parties. We then (18:12) teleport you to the office of amazing Columbia anthropologist and infrastructure guru, Brian Larkin. Brian explains to us how his interest in practices of media circulation led him to research infrastructures of communication and mediation. That leads us to his recent work on electricity in Nigeria, the productivity of the grid’s failure and the ontogenesis of new electric systems like generators. We talk about how the state and modernity figure into electrical discourse, ambient infrastructures, the in/visibilization of infrastructure, and how technology overcodes space in order to create its conditions of existence. We then turn to China’s becoming a global infrastructural powerhouse and how the digital infrastructures of everyday life differ across the world. We stump Brian momentarily as to his own ideal dinner party companions but he reciprocally blindsides us with the information that his masters thesis was on … wait for it … Donald Trump and then shares what he learned about Trump’s appeal. We talk about the explosion of both the conception and reality of mediation in the Internet era and whether a Media Worlds vol 2 might be coming. We close on questionsof infrastructural repair and being perpetually in beta. Hey, who’s on your dinner party wish list?