Please find here the events organized by the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology of the last five years.


22.06.2022, Andrea Ballestero (University of Southern California): Aquifers: Ethnography and Responsibility at the Edge of a Concept

Imagining what life will become in the near future, public officials and community members on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast are coming together to take responsibility for underground water worlds. In the process they oscillate between two concepts: groundwater and aquifers. Groundwater efficiently conveys a sense of water as a fungible unit that can be exchanged, banked, or spent. In contrast, the figure of the aquifer activates a grounded concept whereby land, liquid, and history are inseparable. In this talk, I query how people move from groundwater to aquifers, and back. I ask what are the stakes of doing so, and what kind of responsibility for subterranean water worlds are possible in that movement? More broadly, I examine what happens to responsibility when people live and act at the edge of a concept?


11.05.2022, Andrew Barry, Evelina Gambino (University College London): The Labour of Capitalisation

This lecture seeks to engage with recent debates around the capitalisation of infrastructure by interrogating how capitalized futures are both fixed and destabilised in the present. We understand the capitalisation of infrastructure as a project aimed at extracting future profit into the present. Rather than a smooth process, capitalisation is sustained by all manners of efforts that bridge between the future, the present and the past. In particular, we argue that there is a need to attend to the specific forms of specialist labour going into the capitalisation of infrastructural projects which we term the labour of capitalisation, which is expected to stabilise or fix the future and to render it predictable and manageable, acting on and through time. The lecture draws on the fieldwork that we have undertaken, together and independently, across three of the major infrastructural projects that have sustained developmental trajectory of the Republic of Georgia since its independence. In the cases we outline, and others, the capitalisation of infrastructure gives rise to diverse types of anti-capitalisation, destabilising or disrupting the performance of the different forms of labour on which capitalisation relies.  


20.04.2022, Christopher Kelty (UCLA): Fixing the Future in Los Angeles or, Why Johnny Can't Problematize

This talk reports some absurdities of environmental governance in a particular place: Los Angeles, California. It focuses on three urban ecological and wildlife controversies: the environmental impact of feral cats cared for by humans, the secondary effects of anticoagulant rodenticides on predatory and scavenging birds and mammals; and the restoration of a wetlands sacred to local Native American peoples, degraded by both oil drilling and conservation. Central to all of them are techno-political tools: environmental impact reports, mitigation bank and credits systems, pesticide registration review. Each of these tools fix the future by defining the present and testing the impacts of different futures--evidence-based policy making. Yet as a pragmatic form, they do much more: they slow down the future in some ways, and speed it up in others; they instantiate certain pasts over others, and they become intense affective fields around which the possibility of argument unfolds. I argue that this does not always happen along predictable lines, serving as a bulwark against a damaging future in some cases and a roadblock to a desired change in others.


Fixing Futures: 

20 April : Christopher Kelty (University of California, Los Angeles)
               Fixing the Future in Los Angeles or, Why Johnny Can't Problematize

11 May: Andrew Barry, Evelina Gambino (University College London)
              The Labour of Capitalism

22 June: Andrea Ballestero (University of Southern California)
               Aquifers and Ethnography at the Edge of a Concept

13 July: Lucy Suchman (Lancaster Unicersity)
              Demilitarisation, open worlds, and reparative futures

Wed, 6-8 pm (ct)
Attendance on Campus Westend, Seminarhouse, SH 2.105 and online! 
Please register via ka-hiwis@em.uni-frankfurt.de


Project presentation by Dr. Katharina Graf, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, Goethe University Frankfurt, on Wednesday, 1 December 2021, 6pm. Join us on Westend Campus, SH 0.106, or virtually on Zoom.