What Happens When We Flush?

I just completed revisions on an article titled “What Happens When We Flush?” that will appear in the September edition of Anthropology Now. You can read a pre-print version of it on my Academia.edu site. The article  discusses how the modern flush toilet has perpetuated the illusion that human waste can be made to “disappear.” Examining the industrial origins of the flush toilet, I point out some of its problematic consequences as a model of sanitation in the contemporary world. Using examples from Pre-Columbian Amazonia and 19th century East Asia, I highlight alternative models of managing human excreta that have proven benefits for agricultural production, which can serve to reorient human relations to excrement in industrialized societies today.

Trip to Nauta

Patricio, a large man with long curly hair and a nose bent severely to his right, grabs my hand and introduces himself. After a few seconds, I fear that I might not get my hand back. He tells me he’s drunk. “Bacán,” I say and laugh nervously. He lets my hand go.

Syd and I have lunch at a little menú place. She has doncella, I have pollo asado. “What would you like for a starter?” the waitress asks. The menu only lists: sopa de pata de res. Is there another option, Syd asks. No, the waitress says. Two soups, it is.

Syd and I talk about 2666. And a trip to the Costa Brava that we have to make some day. But today, we have another pilgrimage.
Continue reading

Q&A with UT Press

University of Texas Press just posted a short interview with me about my new book Amazonia in the Anthropocene: People, Soils, Plants, Forests, which was published this month. The interview touches on recent debates over the origins of the Anthropocene as well as my critiques of its current conceptualization. It also discusses some of the problems with the dominant portrayals of Amazonia and its people that circulate outside of the region. UT Press will be promoting the book at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) in New York City this week.

Shit

I wrote a short essay titled “shit” that was just published on Cultural Anthropology’s website as part of their series Lexicon for an Anthropocene Yet Unseen. Other additions to the lexicon include: carbon, heat, species, and zoonosis.

A brief teaser from my contribution: “The Anthropocene will offer many lessons for humanity, but one of its most jarring is that we simply can’t hide from our shit any more.”

Waste, Residuals, and Ruins: A Political Ecology of Excess

This weekend I’ll be presenting at the Dimensions of Political Ecology (DOPE) Conference in Lexington, KY. Shreyas Sreenath (Emory U.) and I put together a double panel titled “Waste, Residuals, and Ruins: A Political Ecology of Excess.” Here’s the abstract:

“This panel takes a political ecological approach to the study of excess in late capitalism. Specifically, it investigates how excesses are created, manipulated, and reincorporated into productive systems, giving special attention to the ways that people creatively manage and repurpose waste. It also considers how capital accumulation in contemporary societies is hinged on particular discursive and material practices of wasting, and how technology is leveraged to address an accelerating accumulation of wastes. Lastly, this panel explores how the production and management of excesses can generate new international divisions in labor and reconstitute existing social hierarchies. Focusing our inquiries on the materials of everyday life—including human excrement, garbage, and demolished buildings—we argue that attention to capitalism’s excesses and wastes not only help us to understand the socio-ecological problems of the present, but also help to conceive of more productive common futures.”

If you’ll be at the conference, please stop by. Our first session will run from 10:30 to 12:10 in Room 231 of the ’90’ on UK’s campus. Session 2, in which I’ll present, will run from 1:30 to 3:10 in the same room.