Experimental Ethnography: Naturecultures of the Anthropocene


The "Anthropocene" is the proposed term to mark a new geological epoch when human industry has overwhelmed many ways of life to the brink of total collapse. Mounting crises from chemical contamination, land grabs, and biodiversity loss are prompting interdisciplinary dialogues and urgent calls to action. By naming the Anthropocene, scholars, activists, artists are challenging how we understand and relate to "nature" and "culture", ecologies that are human, nonhuman, and machine. A major challenge is how to study multiple and complex activities together: what forms and methods of analysis are needed to describe and engage with our changing, mixed up, and rapidly dying worlds?


In this course, students will be immersed in the concept of "naturecultures". Feminist science studies scholar Donna Haraway's recent texts, The Companion Species Manifesto (2003) and Staying with the Trouble (2016) will frame the course. Students will read texts, watch films, listen to audio works, and go on walks, to engage with different ways of understanding "naturecultures" through the fields of (1) animal studies; (2) ethnobotany; and (3) microbial life. Throughout the course, students will be asked to consider how shifting from human-centered narratives to more-than-human naturecultures opens up new ways of doing ethnography, and living ecologically. Students will be asked to relate readings to their everyday practices, and reconceive these practices through the lens of animals, plants, and microbes. Learning how to take these different lives and lenses seriously is crucial to surviving the rubble and rising sea levels in the Anthropocene.


The only course prerequisite is a willingness to engage ecologically.

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