Fog harvesting as trapping: the art and infrastructure of fog capture in Peru
(University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
In the face of inequality in access to water infrastructures, NGOs in Lima attempt to engage vulnerable communities in fog harvesting practices. By using the concept of the trap, this paper seeks to design an anthropological enquiry into the generative capacities of fog capture.
Paper long abstract:
In the face of aridity and inequality in access to water infrastructures, NGOs in Peru attempt to engage vulnerable communities in fog harvesting practices. By using fog catchers to tap into a formerly overlooked water resource, people living in foggy areas are being made attentive to the abundance of water suspended in the air. In this paper, I discuss what the concept of the trap might do for an ethnographic study of fog catchers in Lima. By suggesting that the trap links these practices to both art and infrastructure, I show how the framing of fog harvesting in terms of trapping serves to design a study that may generate insights into emergent forms of relationality, representation, as well as material and environmental engagement. I make my case by accounting for the way in which anthropological interests in traps have shifted from a concern with human-animal relations to one with non-organic agency, description, and knowledge. While a concern with traps as carriers of human intentionality and interpretation might encourage us to treat them as artworks from which to abduct the agency or subjectivity of the trap-maker, recent attention to the productive capacities of traps have suggested that we extend the concept also to studies of how traps bring forth ontological and epistemological effects. Fog catchers might not only be dependent upon, but also be generative of ecological infrastructures and knowledges of the worlds that they entangle and relate to one another.
The art of infrastructure