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september, 2019

17sep5:30 pm7:00 pmExtinction Thresholds with Kath Weston


Event Details

Extinction Thresholds

Planetary Dispossession: Ecological Inheritance And The Last Generation with Kath Weston

“What sort of world are we leaving to our children?”  “Why have you not taken better care of the environment?  You are passing a ruined planet on to us!”  These are rhetorical claims, though hardly idle ones, that have become commonplace in discussions of climate change and ecological damage.  On both sides of a putative generational divide, a notion of ecological inheritance frames speculative futures about extinction and the end of generational succession, as well as diagnoses of what currently ails an Earth now conceived on a planetary scale.  This talk examines the revival of a transmission model of inheritance in environmental politics in North America, offering as illustrative evidence a series of ethnographic vignettes centered on three pieces of “material culture”: a plastic bag, a bumper sticker, and a totem pole.  What financialized assumptions about possession, ownership, authority, and succession inform the trope of bequeathing an ecologically compromised world to a receiving generation that worries it might be the last?  What sorts of exclusions are embedded in the notion of ecological inheritance for those who already apprehend themselves as dispossessed?  If an ecological inheritance of planetary dispossession for “the last generation” presents itself as a legacy that, like debt bondage, can neither be renounced nor refused, are there alternative ways to live, other than in thrall to the spectre of extinction, regardless of how things turn out?

cosponsored by Department of Anthropology

About the Speaker

Kath Weston is a British Academy Global Professor at the University of Edinburgh and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia.  Her research focuses on bodies and visceral engagement in ways that integrate political ecology, kinship, the anthropology of finance, STS, and the study of identity politics.  Weston’s books include Animate Planet: Making Visceral Sense of Living in a High-Tech Ecologically Damaged World (Duke 2017), Traveling Light: On the Road with America’s Poor (Beacon 2008), and Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship (2nd ed. Columbia 1997).


(Tuesday) 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


IRWGS Seminar Room, 754 Schermerhorn Ext


The Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality is the locus of interdisciplinary feminist and queer scholarship and teaching at Columbia University.

Columbia University
Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality

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