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The petrification of social life? Concrete ethnographies of late industrialism 
Giuseppe Tateo (ICUB University of Bucharest)
Adrian Deoancă (Romanian Academy)
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Stuart Kirsch (University of Michigan)
Tuesday 23 July, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Madrid
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Short Abstract:

This session explores ethnographically the multiple ways that the ubiquitous and banal concrete mediates life and politics in late industrialism. Panelists examine critically the meaning and function of concrete along its lifecycle from production to discard, in a variety of sociocultural locales.

Long Abstract:

Concrete, the second most used substance in the world after water, is a strong contender for arch material of the Anthropocene. Since the 19th century onwards, humanity has poured sufficient volumes to coat the planet in a two-millimeter-thick layer of artificial stone in its quest to subdue nature, dominate space and obliterate time. Concrete has long provided a solid foundation for the making of modern societies, irrespective of the political persuasion of its planners and constructors (be it fascists, communists, neoliberal developers or vernacular builders). It is as much an element of vulnerability as it is one of development and durability, fueling political corruption, uneven development and environmental anxieties. Recent efforts geared towards the greening of heavy industry and building materials furthermore promise to turn concrete from a weapon of mass construction and destruction into an agent of environmental redemption. Given that our lives are likely to be imbricated with concrete in the foreseeable future, it is timely to bring the material quietly lurking in the background of contemporary societies under ethnographic scrutiny. Undoing anthropocentric perspectives on materiality entails investigating the polysemic potential of stone and concrete - traditionally understood as inert materials standing poles apart from sociality and life itself- alongside its socio-technical potentialities and political-economic lives. In this session, we welcome contributions reflecting on infrastructure, housing, the construction industry, and materiality at large, including debris as the unavoidable aftermath of processes of building, renovation and discard.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -
Session 2 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -