Drawing More-than-Human Kinship

In my work as an anthropological ethnographer and illustrator, I have been working to connect seemingly disparate disciplines together—at times, even as a messy and rough bricolage. Thinking broadly about kinship—both intra- and inter-species—as a fundamental and foundational practice toward a mutually thriving future, I experiment with different formats and genres to reimagine what it means to produce ethnographic work. This reimagined work is not only informative but also beautiful, like the kinship I experience with my dog, Frank, who is depicted in the illustrations below. My investment in beauty is also an intentional form of resistance against neoliberal capitalist systems that prioritise profit, results, and efficiency over beauty, process, and patience. It matters that the illustrations in this series are digital. Using a software called Procreate on the 11” iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, I actualise my imaginations on the screen. That is, this specific combination of technologies (read more...)

A marble statue of a man with a hand holding his tunic.

Hippocrates Against Protocols: Experiments, Experience, and Evidence-Based Medicine in Brazil

In this text, I address processes in which science is being claimed, shaken, disputed, and unpredictably rearticulated in Brazil’s medical field. Specifically, I consider denialist practices and movements during the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on an ethnographic approach to a variety of actions by medical groups and institutions that are critical of vaccination against Covid-19 and instead defend the use of drugs (considered ineffective by others) for the “early treatment” of the disease, I seek to highlight how their practices rearticulate, transform, and dispute new meanings, values, and practices of science, rather than simply reject it. Although they are publicly named by the media and scientists as denialists, their practices and discourses, as well as the repercussions of their actions, do not seem to be well explained by mere vulnerability to misinformation, lack of understanding of the technical aspects of the disease, or even the supposedly self-explanatory diagnosis of a frankly anti-science position. On the contrary, as I demonstrate in this essay, these groups resort to different constructions of science to produce their arguments and defend themselves against criticism. They do this by repositioning the content and legitimacy of the evidence on different axes than those of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM), while at the same time, claiming EBM’s authority. In this sense, the following question animates this text: since the practices of these doctors can be recognized as denialist, how can this concept refer to something beyond a simple and direct refusal of everything that is usually called “science”? (read more...)

AI, Climate Adaptation, and Epistemic Injustice

Amid global climate impacts, vulnerable communities—including indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolk, ​​and low-income groups—are frequently expected to adapt, change, and build resilience to uncertain climatic futures. ​​Under these changing conditions, what knowledge practices and frameworks should guide the decision-making of vulnerable communities in addressing climate challenges? What knowledge sources and perspectives should be considered when developing resilience policies and plans, from the supranational to the local level? (read more...)

A crowded event at an art gallery. Artworks are displayed on television screens.

Tokens, Voids, and Archives: Locating Berlin’s NFT Projects

I’m standing on the train platform of U Schloßstraße, an U-Bahn station in Berlin’s Steglitz neighborhood. In front of me is an artwork: a beauty advertisement depicting a smiling woman. The model’s image has been altered with chemical solvents, giving her skin a brushwork-like texture and her complexion a ghostly paleness. I observe the dark, graffitied station around me. The arrivals board says the time is 5:20, but I’m unsure whether it’s early morning or evening. Commuters are wearing winter jackets and KN95 masks. Some read books as they wait for the train. Four young men play a game of tag. I hear the hum of an incoming U9 train and watch its arrival soon after. The doors open and the announcement blasts: Zurückbleiben bitte. Passengers leave the yellow train cars before new ones enter. After a beep, the doors close and the train hums away. The platform empties, leaving only the model’s altered image in my company. Pleased with the experience, I remove the VR goggles and return to a pop-up art gallery on Kurfürstemdamm, Berlin’s famous shopping street. This VR artwork, part of the Immersion series by the artist Vermibus, is now preserved on the Ethereum blockchain as an NFT. It was purchased for 2.4 ETH by Lango1 and remains tied to that user’s Ethereum wallet. Lango1 now owns a singular, authorized copy of the artwork—and with it, a Berlin moment whose physical version has been lost to time. (read more...)

The image shows a green background, with a farm machine in the center. It has grey wheels. We can see the back of the driver in the photo.

Ways of Knowing: Lessons on Agroecological Transitions from a Pothwari Farm

Contemporary agroecological farming is a knowledge-intensive form of production that can maximize the productivity of energy flows, which are central to the productive forces. Cumulatively, it is suggested, the terms and conditions by which the contemporary agrarian question can be resolved is through an agroecological agrarian transition. (Haroon Akram-Lodhi, 2021) Three years ago, I started a farm in my village Tareel, which is located less than ten kilometers outside the metropolitan border of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Tareel is in the rain-fed Pothwar plateau near the Himalayan foothills, and like many peri-urban areas in South Asia, is rapidly urbanizing and increasingly reliant on the nearby urban economy. The rain-fed nature of agriculture here makes it more prone to climatic risk and loss, and therefore less remunerative. As a researcher and self-identifying ‘citizen planner,’ I was curious if new methods of agriculture could make the sector remunerative enough to counter the desire to convert agricultural land into real estate. Since I was familiar with the emerging significance of agroecology and regenerative agriculture  in climate adaptation, I was motivated to understand what it would take to help us transition towards practices closer to agroecology. (read more...)

There is a pile of industrial garbage in two images. Mostly computer monitors, maybe a fridge. Both images are distorted by gray lines, in the first across the middle, in the second at the top, which obscure most of the garbage. A poem runs across both images linking them together. It reads: there is a sudden loss in the way all of this.

A Vocabulary for Junk in Four Movements

It was really a miracle that he was able to function. He had accumulated so much shit, it was starting to get concerning, or would have, if there had been anyone to be concerned. As it was, all he was, was being practical. Weirdos hoard shit for god knows what reasons but he was keeping a collection of spares. Admittedly, there was a tight line one approaches when one, for example, collects spares for other spares or if you’re missing the very thing to donate parts for in the first place. But he was aware of that. Each time a new thing came into the house, he would reflect on that line. It was a dotted line, like those where you’d put your signature or tear along. Which one it was, that’s an open discourse, to be negotiated anew. As of right now, there was a more practical concern. The (read more...)

What was once metal is brown and yellow with swirls of bark-like rust.

Junk Anthropology: A Manifesto for Trashing and Untrashing

It is currently held, not without certain uneasiness, that 90% of human DNA is ‘junk.’ The renowned Cambridge molecular biologist, Sydney Brenner, makes a helpful distinction between ‘junk’ and ‘garbage.’ Garbage is something used up and worthless which you throw away; junk is something you store for some unspecified future use. (Rabinow, 1992, 7-8) In the bioscience lab near Tokyo where I did my ethnographic study, the researchers taught me how to do PCR experiments. This was before Covid when almost everyone came to know what PCR was, or at least, what kind of instrumental information it could be good for. The lab was working with mouse models, although I never got to see them in their cages. But the researcher I was shadowing showed me how to put the mouse tail clippings she collected into small tubes. She hated cutting tails, by the way, and preferred to take ear punches when she could. She told me that she didn’t like the way the mice wiggled under her hand, as if they just knew. But at this point anyway, the mice are alive in the animal room and she is only putting small, but vital, pieces of them into a tube to dissolve them down (mice becoming means), to get to the foundation of what she really wants. (read more...)

A Failure in Capture: An Experiment in Multimodal Interactive Ethnography where ‘Nothing Happens’

The video below this text is interactive. To view, click play and follow the instructions you see on the screen. As you watch, look for areas that you can click with a mouse (or tap with your finger, if on a mobile device) or see what appears when you mouse over different areas of the image at different times. What do you see? This multimodal content, due to technological limitations, may not be accessible to all. If the multimodal experience is not accessible to you, please visit the text based version for visual and audio descriptions and full-text transcription or listen to the audio narration: Audio Narration by Kara White On mobile devices, we suggest viewing the page in landscape mode and selecting “Distraction Free Reading” in the top-right corner. This is an interactive video. This video is designed to get the viewer or reader to “search” the image for (read more...)