A lung cemented with rock dust. An earth that breathes. A machine that does not cough but grows weary nonetheless. A thumb in the shape of a shovel. A pick in the shape of an arm. A leg that might or might not be mine. These anatomical figures, drawn from conversations with informal migrant miners in southern Africa, comprise elements of an idiom in which the haunting effects and residual violence of natural resource extraction are experienced in an era of postindustrial ruin. In this lecture, Rosalind Morris reflects on the complex temporality that haunts the history of natural resource extraction economies, and especially mining, in which the dream of progress is written against a horizon of finitude, and where the past leaks forward as a toxic residue but also as a lure for return. The lecture is accompanied by video clips and photography from her ongoing research and filmmaking.
Rosalind Morris is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University and Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Humanities. Her work addresses questions of the relationships between value and violence; aesthetics and the political; the sexualization of power and desire; and the history of anthropological thought and social theory. Her books include The Returns of Fetishism: Charles de Brosses’s The Worship of Fetish Gods and its Legacies, with Daniel Leonard (Chicago 2017); Accounts and Drawings from Underground: East Rand Proprietary Mines, 1906, with William Kentridge (Chicago and Kolkata 2014); That Which is Not Drawn: William Kentridge in Conversation with Rosalind Morris (Chicago and Kolkata 2013). She is currently fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.
An ICI Berlin event in cooperation with The American Academy in Berlin
The lecture is part of the current ICI Lecture Series ERRANS, environ/s. There is hardly a discipline, field, or discourse within the natural and social sciences nor the humanities that hasn’t long been touched and transformed by the notions of milieu, environment, or Umwelt. The recent revival and proliferation of ecological discourses can be understood, at least in part, as a response to the increasingly complete immersion in technologically in-formed environments.
The transdisciplinary impact of these new concepts has not yet been captured, nor is it clear that it can be captured, but while the life sciences play a prominent role in them (having adopted, in the 19th century, concepts from physics and transgressed into the social sciences, for example, as racist discourses and social Darwinism), they don’t operate as the leading science in this transformation. Instead, this process appears to be a multidirectional, non-hierarchizable, and errant movement, itself constituting a complex ecology of knowledge.
ERRANS environ/s contemplates aspects of this frequently divergent, potentially errant, and certainly ongoing transformation of not only the sciences or cultures of knowledge, but also cultural and artistic production at large. It will investigate the ways in which an attention to environments can have the effect of dissolving boundaries or making them permeable, questioning clear-cut distinctions, undermining naive ontologies, decentring the subject, folding nature and culture, and producing complex political ecologies attuned to far-reaching entanglements.
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