We will explore the shifting states of ghosts, plants, animals, and chemicals. We will brush up against age-old philosophical questions—"what is life?" and "what is not life?"
Anthropology's crisis of objectivity is entering an increasingly animated state (Chen 2012). If the 1980s were marked by controversies related to "I witnessing" (Crapanzano 1980; Geertz 1988) and critiques of experts who "represent the colonized" (Said 1989), the 2000s have seen a fragmentation of anthropos—the conventional anthropological subject. Anthropologists are studying alternative worlds (l'autre mondialisation) and forms of Alt-Life (Haraway 2008; Murphy 2017). In an era of Alt-Facts, we are also starting to follow Brian Rotman (2008) and ask: What is an "unwarranted fiction"? How do things get to "be"—to be named and sustain belief in their existence—with no apparent evidence for them? Pushing past earlier accounts of multispecies worlds (Kirksey and Helmreich 2010), and interventions in the realms of ficto-critical ethnography (Muecke 2002), we are attending to modes of producing ethnographic facts and fictions that are situated within anti-racist struggles and environmental justice movements (Kowal 2015; Nixon 2011). Papers in this panel will explore the shifting states of ghosts, plants, animals, and chemicals. We will brush up against age-old philosophical questions—"what is life?" and "what is not life?"—considering "life that becomes not-life, an other-than-life, a becoming-nonliving" (Thacker 2005). Instead of sharing Jane Bennett's enthusiasm "about the liveliness of matter itself" (2010), we will instead account for "the complexities, frictions, intractabilities, and conundrums of 'matter in relation'" (Abrahamsson et al. 2015: 13). Alterlife names life recomposed by the molecular productions of capitalism, the pasts of our ancestors, and the future (Murphy 2017).