Panel Three: Hope and activism across boundaries
One of the core strengths of anthropology is its ability to grasp the complexity, or ‘messiness’, of social and environmental relations. This nuanced view can be productive in bringing refinement into polarised debates, allowing exchange between opposing actors and even reconcile seemingly opposing needs. But it may also paralyse, silencing the voices that are unable or unwilling to tune into one-liner dominated public debates. How do anthropologists balance their commitment to understanding the intricacies of the world with the need or desire to speak out and take a stance? What narratives are needed in order to secure liveable futures for people, nonhuman species and landscapes across the globe, and what narratives could anthropologists produce to make use of their discipline’s strengths, to serve a better future? What roles might anthropologists take in the environmental debates of today, vis-à-vis their interlocutors and other human and nonhuman stakeholders?
This panel will also invite as discussants and participants representatives of local environmental protest groups to find common ground and mutual pathways from the ruinations of the pasts towards better futures.
University of Copenhagen
Activism and its futures in landscapes of broken developmental dreams
In the second half of the 20th Century, modernization projects and associated narratives of economic development and progress made their imprint on landscapes and altered human relations to nature. Across ideological and political standpoints such narratives informed people’s outlook to the future and even their projects of progressive political change. Yet no more than a decade after the story about reaching an “end of history” gained momentum among European politicians – a story advocating the idea that a particular politico-economic formation would constitute the end-point of all societal development – it became accompanied and even overwritten by experiences of environmental destruction and anthropogenic climate change. In this presentation, I take my point of departure in landscapes of broken developmental dreams with a view to examine the forms of activism that they may give rise to. Based on what I like to refer to as my dark trilogy – a series of articles that examine the afterlife of progress, political uses of dystopia, and changing rhythms of radical environmental activism – I take the listeners to sites of environmental destruction in both Germany, Denmark and Amazonia. I do so in order to outline human and non-human forms of vigorous action, their relation to imperial debris and renderings of time, and to discuss the roles that anthropologists might take in such projects.