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Presented By: Department of Anthropology

SocioCultural Anthropology Colloquium: "Follow the Water: Connecting Hydrospheres in the Arctic and the Gulf Coast"

Professors Dominic Boyer and Cymene Howe

"As temperature records are broken across the world, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets is accelerating. Rising surface temperatures likewise guarantee new conditions of drought and flood, exacerbated by a slowing jet stream that will tend to stall weather systems in unpredictable ways. Our changing cryospheres and hydrospheres promise misery to millions across the planet. But they also reveal forms of material connectivity that could potentially be mobilized in the struggle against climate change and the petroculture that produced it. In this presentation, we juxtapose Cymene Howe’s elemental ethnography of the transformation of ice into water in the Arctic with Dominic Boyer’s research on how Houstonians are seeking to adapt to the increasing presence of stormwater in their lives. We discuss a concept we call “hydrological globalization” to highlight the elemental connections and cultural impacts that follow from the redistribution of water across the planet. We also highlight how hydrological precarity creates new possibilities for alliances across the world built out of shared Anthropocene experiences like droughts, fires and flooding."

Dominic Boyer is an anthropologist, media maker and environmental researcher who teaches at Rice University where he served as Founding Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (2013-2019). He recently published Energopolitics (Duke UP, 2019), which analyzes the politics of wind power development in Southern Mexico and Hyposubjects (Open Humanities Press, 2021), an experimental collaboration with Timothy Morton concerning politics in the Anthropocene. With Cymene Howe, he made a documentary film about Iceland’s first major glacier (Okjökull) lost to climate change, Not Ok: a little movie about a small glacier at the end of the world (2018). In August 2019, together with Icelandic collaborators they installed a memorial to Okjökull’s passing, an event that attracted media attention from around the world and which caused The Economist to create their first-ever obituary for a non-human. During 2021-22 he held an artist residency at The Factory in Djúpavík, Iceland, and was a Berggruen Institute Fellow in Los Angeles working on a project on “Electric Futures.” His most recent book is titled No More Fossils (U Minnesota Press, 2023) a discussion of fossil fuel fossils and what is to be done about them.

Cymene Howe is Professor of Anthropology and Founding Co-Director of the Science and Technology Studies Program at Rice University. Her books include Intimate Activism (Duke 2013) and Ecologics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene (Duke 2019), and the co-edited collections Anthropocene Unseen (Punctum 2020), Solarities: Elemental Encounters and Refractions (Punctum 2023), and The Johns Hopkins Guide to Critical and Cultural Theory. Her research has been funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and she was awarded The Berlin Prize for transatlantic dialogue in the arts, humanities, and public policy. Her current research examines the changing dynamics between people and bodies of ice in the Arctic region and sea level adaptation in coastal cities around the world. Out of her research in the Arctic region, she co-created documentary film Not Ok: A Little Movie about a Small Glacier at the End of the World (2019) and the memorial for Okjökull, the world’s first funeral for a glacier fallen to climate change.

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