Accepted Paper:

Between Desert and Tundra: Nutritional Realities of the Svalbard Vault  


Lilah Leopold (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the first withdrawal of seed samples from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as an example of engaging the lenses of feminist STS scholarship and the artwork installed in the vault’s entrance in order to understand public health through non-conforming seed and human bodies.

Paper long abstract:

Installed in the space of a former coal mine on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, the Global Seed Vault became a site of recent international debate following the withdrawal of seed samples by the now Beirut-based International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas. The aftermath of the 2015 retrieval mission provides an opportunity to trace a node of recent movements of collectives of seeds and people, spurred by the civil war in Syria and climate breakdown. Drawing from STS framings that have placed the power of collective resistance in "multiple marginality" at the site of bodies belonging to multiple networks (Starr, 1991), this paper translates scholarship of site-specific and cartographic artistic practices through the conduits of feminist STS scholarship. By making visible the collective displacement of seeds and human bodies, Norwegian artist Dyveke Sanne's artwork entitled "Perpetual Repercussion" (Svalbard, Norway, 2008), questions the presumed stability of geopolitical borders, climate models, and patterns of migration of non-conforming bodies, as well as the global operations and farming technologies presumed to preserve crop diversity and sustain human nutrition. "Perpetual Repercussion" employs fiber optic cables and mirror fragments embedded in the entrance of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to confront viewers with elements of the vault's immediate Arctic environment and generate discourse about its finite repository of agricultural seed samples. This paper thinks with non-conforming seed and human bodies and through the lens of Perpetual Repercussion to understand realities of public health.

Panel T057
Non-conforming bodies: an exploration of public health knowledge, practice and technologies beyond 'the body'