Tag: crisis

Together in Crisis: the Politics of Day Zero in Cape Town

Every morning before heading in to work, Lusanda weaves his way through shacks and sandy puddles, bucket in hand. The communal tap he uses is some fifty meters away. It’s relatively close, compared to some other settlements. “The problem is that tap there,” he explains pointing off in the distance, “If the tap is open there, this one will shut down, so I’ll have to wait for those ones to finish and fill up. That’s why all the time I keep my bucket full.” It is especially bad on Saturdays, when everyone is doing their laundry, so he strategically times the trip. Lusanda makes this journey twice every day, filling up a twenty-liter bucket, which he shares with his girlfriend. A couple of liters here for washing, a couple there for cooking and cleaning, all judiciously scooped from the bucket. (read more...)

Pragmatism and the Magic Book for Nuclear Power

Today’s post by Vincent Ialenti, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Cornell, is in partnership with the experimental publication Allegra Lab, and links reflections on the theme of #pragmatism to anthropological research on nuclear energy and environmentalism. Pragmatism, according to Merriam-Webster, refers to both “a practical approach to problems and affairs,” and an American philosophical tradition, founded by C. S. Peirce and William James, that evaluates conceptions and thought through their practical consequences in guiding action. — Editor’s note.   This is a picture of a brightly colored South Korean pro-nuclear children’s book adorned with friendly animals dancing around a light bulb in front of a nuclear power plant. The title translates to The Magic Book for Nuclear Power with WINK (Women In Nuclear-Korea). I first encountered this artifact in London at a 2013 World Nuclear Association symposium. There, it was a tool nuclear energy industry insiders used to counter what they saw as anti-nuclear misinformation to which Korean children might be exposed through television, from their parents, or at school. At the time, I associated the book with rising “climate pragmatist” pro-nuclear environmentalisms like those in Robert Stone’s Pandora’s Promise documentary, those of Breakthrough Institute thinkers, those of the Hartwell Group, or—more recently—those in the Ecomodernist Manifesto. These pragmatisms were underlain by hopes for technology, innovation, human agency, open futures, incremental progress, and possibilities for achieving common ground across political divides. I continue to reflect on these pragmatisms as I develop an ethnography of Finland’s deep time auguring Olkiluoto nuclear waste repository safety case experts. (read more...)

Is the Captain Crazy? Am I In Charge?

Probably everyone reading this has had the experience of receiving a command or an instruction from a legitimate authority that elicits the response: “Are they out of their minds?” If it is a bureaucratic authority, like the IRS, reflection suggests that there is no “they” to have a mind that they could be out of. This kind of authority is the result of a code of rules that is not monitored for consistency, and there may be no one who is charged with determining whether the application of a particular rule makes sense. This is the authority of the faceless “They”. But there is the even more frightening situation in which one’s manager issues an order which makes no sense, or which appears to be operating in a different universe. (As a linguist, I note the existence of a lexical item for one particular style of managerial insanity: the “bring (read more...)