Accepted paper:

Writing as (cosmo)politics: care-ful ethnographies of plastic


Tridibesh Dey (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

Through care-ful meditation on complex plastic assemblages and their thing-politics, as lived with, this paper is a speculation into implications for ethnographic writing and for collectively potentialized being in a plastic-populated world.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will speculate cosmopolitical possibilities through a care-ful studying of alter-politics with plastics. As such, we will talk about a grassroot political movement by Bishnoi men in Rajasthan against plastic-use, cattle-death upon plastic ingestion, toy-making with discarded plastics and about associations with plastics from everyday lives of (subaltern) people, including my own mother's, that exceed stipulated/governed consumption-disposal models. Simultaneously, we attempt to address how ethnographic writing about plastics re-writes ethnographic praxis itself.

Ubiquitous and pervasive, plastic may be safely said to mediate every form of life-processes across the planet today. We are co-populated by plastics (not least, embodied plastics), which have become instrumental to the very enactment of our many selves, actual and virtual. Researching plastics, lived with as such, is to research oneself and one's interlocutors as situated within an intra-active web of political processes and (critical) subject-object relations. As ethnographic researcher from India whose home, family and research participants live, choking on rising plastic debris colonizing the commons, there is substantial stake enfolded into the creative and destructive (collective) potentialities of plastics as ontologically pliable molecular bodies. From such a vantage point, at least, perhaps the only way to write about plastics, then, is to assume one's responsibilities, interests, affects, concerns - care(s), harness embodied privileges and enact one's politics into the world. Writing as care-ing about plastic, then, is 'material-vital doing', reflexive political action describing 'hidden labour' and 'inventions' from below, to open up space for alternative subjectivities, furthering new partial connections for collective potentialization.

panel P139
Alter-politics, commons and ethnographies for another world