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Southeast Asia Studies Talk with Anna Tsing: “On the Sociality of Birds: Reflections on Ontological Edge Effects”
WhenFriday, Feb. 28, 2020, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Campus locationCommunications Building (CMU)
Campus room202
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsWalter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities
Description

(Open to all departments)

How might quite different kinds of people appreciate birds?  And in what ways do birds appreciate (or refuse the attentions of) people?   This talk reflects on the sociality of birds from the perspective of a discipline that once only studied humans but now finds itself needing to notice more-than-human affairs.  Anthropologists have worried that in studying nonhuman socialities, we find ourselves ever more entangled with the Western imperial projects to which the field has hoped to show alternatives.  At the same time, to ignore nonhumans as social beings blithely ignores Anthropocene destruction, which haunts our species too.  This essay explores what it would mean to take overlapping—but non-identical—forms of curiosity as a starting point for getting to know birds.  Traveling to the Raja Ampat islands of West Papua, Indonesia, in the company of bird experts, the author watched birds and villagers and birdwatchers in their common muddling together.  One of the surprises of the trip was the enthusiasm of villagers for showing international guests their local birds.  Where did this enthusiasm come from, she asked, and how did it interact both with birds’ own agendas in villages and with the international political economy of birdwatching?  Exploring such questions leads us into the Anthropocene’s challenges of collaboration.  To recognize the dance of more-than-human sociality, the author suggests, requires attention both to varied agendas people have with birds and to those birds have with people.

Anna Tsing is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  She is also Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, where she codirects Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA). Tsing is well-known for her far-reaching and interdisciplinary work in the environmental humanities and ethnography, exploring not only how the Anthropocene extinguishes life, but also how to gives way to new modes of living. She is author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015) and co-editor of Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet (2017). Together with Jennifer Deger, Alder Keleman-Saxena, and Feifei Zhou, she is co-editing Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene, forthcoming in 2020.

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