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Terra Infirma: Our Quaking, Shaking, Baking, Ailing Earth
September 28, 2017 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pmFree
Lecture / Thursday, September 28
5:30–6:30pm / Spencer Museum of Art
Anthropologist Kath Weston gives a lecture based on the concepts in her new book: Animate Planet: Making Visceral Sense of Living in a High-Tech Ecologically Damaged World (2017). Weston is professor of anthropology at the University of Virginia and an Integrated Arts Research Initiative visiting scholar. For centuries, terra was firma: the solid ground on which edifices could be built, the predictable landfall reached by sailors after months at sea, the reliable surface that catches us when we fall, the fixed “groundwork” on which even theories rest. These days, the Earth appears more infirm than not. Swarms of earthquakes attributed to fracking advance in places where bees no longer swarm. Buildings collapse as temperatures rise and permafrost turns out to be temporary. Everywhere “the environment” is said to be ailing. Weston considers whether this shift can be reconciled with recent work in the arts and sciences that features happier depictions of a terra laced with pollinating beetles, industrious earthworms, and immunity-building bacteria.
Weston is a Guggenheim Fellow who has conducted research in North America, India, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and served as a Visiting Professor at Cambridge University and Tokyo University. She has also published extensively on kinship, class, gender, and sexuality, including Traveling Light: On the Road with America’s Poor and Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship. Her current work focuses on political ecology, the anthropology of finance, and science studies, with an emphasis on embodied engagements with the world around us.