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Accepted paper:

Swimming across scales: on eel conservation in the liquid Anthropocene


Rebekka Kanesu (Trier University)

Paper short abstract:

The contribution shows how the Anthropocene is shaped and contested on multiple intersecting scales by pointing to the multi-species relationships between people and eel that develop in the context of biodiversity conservation, hydropower production, gourmet cuisine, riverine and marine lifeworlds.

Paper long abstract:

This contribution explores the re-scaling of the Anthropocene by looking at German and Luxemburgish eel conservation initiatives along the Moselle, Saar and Sauer rivers. Since the 1970s, the European eel population has decreased by more than 90% and is listed on the IUCN's red list of endangered species. Although at first sight, the eel is not the most charismatic animal, learning about its transatlantic migration, its life in local river systems and its physical metamorphoses through different life stages reveals a fascinating story about this mysterious fish. Over the course of its life, the eel crosses different scales where it interacts e.g. with local fishermen, national energy companies, transnational scientists, regional government bodies and international smugglers. Additionally, the eel is subject of European policies and global biodiversity discourses. The relational processes in the in-between spaces where people, organizations, fish and discourses meet are crucial for understanding environmental perceptions and practices that form and reshape the Anthropocene. This so called "patchy Anthropocene" (Tsing et al. 2019) is characterized by uneven overlaps, intersections and frictions of more-than-human relations between, across and along fuzzy scales. By investigating this inter- and cross-scalar human-eel assemblage, the analysis follows diverse knots and threats that tie people and fish together in power-laden social, political and economic relations.

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(Re)scaling the Anthropocene