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New Situations Demand New Ethnographies: Exploring Scales as an Ethnographic Engine
Paper short abstract:
My paper focuses on exploring scales in the context of the Anthropocene as an ethnographic phenomenon shaping research design. I will focus on examples of scales in the arena of climate change understanding: in geoengineering, in biomimicry, and in visual modeling of scientific knowledge.
Paper long abstract:
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour" wrote the British poet William Blake two centuries ago, describing the experience of gaining meaning and understanding of spatio-temporal concepts through re-scaling. My paper focuses on exploring rescaling and scale utilization in and of itself in the context of the Anthropocene as an ethnographic phenomenon, which can shape research design. I will focus on three examples of, as we might call it, "culturally occurring scaling and rescaling" emergent in the arena of climate change understanding and mitigation: geoengineering, as an example of rescaling the logic of a laboratory to planetary systems; biomimicry, as a field that rescales specific instances of natural design to large-scale infrastructure projects to combat climate change; and relative scale models used in translating scientific knowledge about spatial and temporal dimensions of climate change for the general public. I will explore the implications for anthropology of the prevalence of scaling and rescaling in epistemologies of the Anthropocene and climate change, and discuss the ways in which scales constitute a core component of the culture of expertise around the Anthropocene, and consequently necessitate scale-oriented ethnographies. I will also discuss what forms such ethnographies, animated by the "engine" of scales as a tool of meaning-making, might assume.
(Re)scaling the Anthropocene