Accepted Paper:

Planetary (and post-planetary) futures in the 'shit soup' of Antarctica  
Richard Vokes (University of Western Australia)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Antarctica during the summer season of 2016-17, this paper argues that the continent's emerging sewage regimes engender a domain in which possible future interactions among people, fauna and environments can be not only imagined, but actively experimented upon.

Paper long abstract:

The Antarctic Treaty System -which came into force in 1959- has relatively little to say about sewage. It states only that (to paraphrase): effluent from any Antarctic research station with 30 or more occupants must be macerated before disposal, and discharged at sea in a location in which it is likely to be rapidly dispersed. However, over the past 20 years, many Antarctic research stations have built sophisticated sewage treatment facilities, and have in other ways vastly expanded their infrastructures and procedures for storing, managing, and disposing of, human waste. Based on ethnographic fieldwork at NZ's Scott Base during the summer research season of 2016-17, this paper argues that the development of these new sewage regimes - and of the wider discard regimes of which they are part - could be read as an expansionary form of biopower - as yet another example of the ways in which Antarctica's technocratic-managerial elites use increasing regulation as a means for governing the bodies of all those who live and work on the continent. However, to stop there would be to miss the ways in which these new infrastructures of sewage are also living systems, in which the products of human bodies are brought into relationship with all manner of microorganisms, and with Antarctic ecosystems, in ways that are inherently unstable. In so doing, they also engender a domain in which possible future interactions among people, fauna and environments can be not only imagined, but can be actively experimented upon.

Panel P14
Life after waste