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PHum08b


Toward an elemental anthropology: working through sand II 
Convenors:
Samuli Lähteenaho (University of Helsinki)
Brenda Chalfin (University of Florida)
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Stream:
Posthumanism
Format:
Panel
Sessions:
Tuesday 22 June, 16:15-18:00 (UTC+3)

Short Abstract:

Anthropology is in the midst of an emerging interest in elemental matters, a move in which sand claims a rightful place. The panel calls for papers in which sand is not a background condition but a prominent player in cultural renderings, political contests, and economic and environmental processes.

Long Abstract

In the context of the anthropocene and the ontological turn, anthropology demands a new conceptual compass. From water, to wind, to air, to energopower, and the spores of matsutake, the discipline is in the midst of an emerging interest in elemental matters. This is a move in which sand claims a rightful place. Fluid, granular, ancient yet ever-changing, sand is the primal soup of civilization, stabilizing settlements, and anchoring subsistence. Sediments of past lives and the earth's deep ecologies, in sand the distinction between animal and mineral collapse, as does the border of land and sea, erosion and accumulation. The panel calls for papers in which sand is not a background condition but a prominent player in cultural renderings, political contests, and economic and environmental processes. Inspired by new work in media studies, environmental science, urban design, and material culture, the panel joins these fields to move sand from substrate to subject matter. It asks, what might an anthropology of sand attuned to the elemental forms and forces of human existence look like in contrast to anthropologies of place tuned to terra firma or the ether of virtual worlds? Whether matters of coastal development and destruction, or arid zones where sand is intimately familiar yet increasingly unsettled, papers should interrogate the connection between 'new earthly troubles' and 'things in the world' including the sandy composites of the present. Like sand, they mix the particulates of post-consumer and post-industrial waste with organic matter to create renegade biomes and novel terraforms.

Accepted papers: