Author Archives: Renzo Taddei

My name is Renzo Taddei. I teach anthropology and science and technology studies at the Federal University of Sao Paulo (Unifesp), Brazil. I have earned my doctoral degree in anthropology from Columbia University (2005). My research focuses on the socio-cultural dimensions of climate and climate change, environmental conflicts, climate communication and its challenges, and traditional environmental knowledge in South America. I direct the field school in ethnographic methods at the Comitas Institute for Anthropological Study (CIFAS). I also served as a visiting scholar at Yale University, Duke University, and the University of the Republic in Uruguay. For more information, please see:
A crowd of people chant and have one or both arms raised. There are white and sky blue flags, some with the word Racing and Racing's logo, which is composed of sky blue and white vertical stripes.

Milei, Crowds, and Concrete Waves in Argentina

I am home, reading Stefan Helmreich’s new book, A Book of Waves (2023). The news on TV then catches my attention: I see images from the inauguration of Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei. The syntagmatic association is obvious: Milei is a new addition to the wave of authoritarian populist rulers now in office. I let out a long sigh, thinking about the future of my relatives and friends in Buenos Aires. Once again, I failed miserably in my ability to forecast election results. Previously, I missed the mark for the 2016 elections in the US and the 2018 elections in Brazil. For many years, my anthropological work has been with forecasts, albeit atmospheric ones (e.g., Taddei 2015, 2020). I often poke fun at my friends in meteorology, telling them that society is more complex than the atmosphere—perhaps to justify why we in the social sciences are so bad at forecasting collective human behavior. In any case, I have the feeling that, of all the uses of the wave metaphor, perhaps this one, associated with extreme rightwing nationalistic politics at the international stage, is the most elusive and misguiding. Is the waviness of the phenomenon derived from any measurable feature, like it is for natural phenomena such as physical ocean waves or El Niño? Or is the waviness just ascribed afterward simply as a familiar semantic container for a myriad of facts so that the public can hold it in their minds? In any case, physical oceanographers also read waves backward. They call it an inverse problem (Helmreich 2023, 258). (read more...)