Abstracts Invited Speakers – University of Copenhagen

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Abstracts Invited Speakers

Zöe Crossland, Columbia University, USA

The Temporality of the Trace
How do we think about the dynamics of the trace? Traces persist and endure, but how might they change and develop? To think through the temporality of the trace I turn to Derrida and Peirce's writings to reconsider questions of duration, process and emergence in relation to the archaeological traces found in the landscapes of highland Madagascar. In so doing I aim to contribute to the current conversation, inspired by Walter Benjamin's writings, about the persistence of the past in the present, and to explore the implications for how the future is imagined. 

Gaston Gordillo, University of British Columbia, Canada

The Forests Destroyed by Bulldozers:

An effective Geometry of the Argentine Soy Boom
In the Gran Chaco plains of northern Argentina, agribusinesses operate soy fields whose creation demanded, and continue demanding, the destruction of the forests that once covered this region. This paper examines this destruction and its traces in the terrain through an affective geometry: that is, an analysis of how bulldozers form physical vectors that negatively affect local people and the forested terrain in which they live, made up the entanglement of trees with multiple other life forms. I analyze how affects shape this process in a twofold sense: in the disregard of the business and political elites who see those forests as blank, available space and in the emotional and bodily response of residents unsettled by this destruction and by the traces its leaves in space. Locals and activists have opposed deforestation through geometries of interruption that seek, first, to intercept with their bodies the advance of the machines and, second, to affect those who disregard the high environmental and social cost of the soy boom in northern Argentina.

Rodney  Harrison, University College London, UK

Legacies: Rethinking Heritage and Waste

Heritage is a term which has generally been understood to denote that which is both rare (or endangered) and positively valued. But what happens when we bring heritage into comparative perspective with other more abject forms of remnants, traces, redundant objects and practices, or material and discursive residues? Kevin Hetherington (2004) has previously drawn attention to heritage as a category of spatial and discursive placing which relates to broader, often cyclical practices of consumption and management of redundancy. In this paper I aim to retheorise heritage and waste as forms of material and discursive legacy, and to reconsider the ontological implications of living with, caring for, and assembling futures out of both more and less persistent forms of legacies in the present.

Yael Navaro, University of Cambridge, UK

Spiritual Continuities: Residues of Territorial Transformation

This lecture addresses the cult around the spiritual figure of Khidr / St. George in Antakya, Turkey and its environs against the backdrop of the history of saint veneration in Greater Syria and the shadow of the current Syrian civil war. I study spiritual entities as residues or remnants of historically significant territorial contestations in the region and subsequent radical shifts in governmentality or regime. Spiritual figures such as Khidr / St. George, and their veneration, appear to be continuous in spite of the violent transfiguration of the territory where they are invoked. I study spirituality, then, as a force that exceeds governmentality, challenging the boundaries of the secularity of the social sciences. The spiritual figure of Khidr, in this ethnographic conceptualization emerges as a ‘ruin’ that surpasses and survives the several challenges and attacks on the territory where it hovers, and its circumference. When taken seriously and considered through, spiritual entities appear to resist the forces of governmentality. The lecture will be both ethnographic and theoretical and will include visual material from fieldwork in Antakya, Turkey and its surroundings.

Anna Storm, Södertörn University, Sweden

Scars: Tracing important markers in physical and mental landscapes

”Allans pond” stores radioactive mud from the regular cleaning of the cooling canal at the Barsebäck nuclear power plant. It forms a scar in the landscape with an important yet ambiguous story to tell. Photo: Anna Storm, 2011

A scar is a reminder, the trace of a wound. It is often ugly and stands for the pains of the past. Spontaneously, a scar is always understood as negative. However, some bodily wounds and scars are chosen, self-inflicted or at least positively laden. Caesarian section operation scars, Mensur scars, or body ornamentation through so-called scarification, carry different meanings and connotations, but they all have one thing in common—they are physical reminders of something of at least personal significance. A scar can be a hallmark for the veteran or the fictional hero. In a similar manner, scars in the landscape – be it contaminated ground, abandoned buildings or heavily transformed natural environments – often conveys ambiguous and complex pasts about injustice and fear, along with survival, resilience, and courage. The story of a scar never concerns indifference; the narrative potential of the scar is a possibility and a promise. In this paper, I will elaborate upon ways in which scars might be used as an analytical concept. I will examine scars in relation to notions of heritage, in relation to understandings of landscape and in relation to ideas about nature as a ”healer” or ”concealer” of significant experiences.