ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE AND THE DEPARTMENT OF AFRICA, OCEANIA AND THE AMERICAS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

(P50)
Reproducing the Environment: Climate Change, Gender, and Future Generations
Location Senate House - G21A
Date and Start Time 27 May, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Janelle Lamoreaux (University of Cambridge) email
  • Katharine Dow (University of Cambridge) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The ability of different species to survive, and reproduce, is integral to concerns about the environment. With future generations at stake, is climate change always also about reproduction? This panel will explore the diverse ways in which gender and reproduction intersect with the environment.

Long Abstract

This panel will consider the relationships between climate change, gender and reproduction. Climate change challenges the very idea of a future for many species, including humans. Participants will examine the questions climate change raises about the conditions of possibility for producing and sustaining human and non-human lives in the future. They will also consider what kinds of answers to these challenges people envisage, whether political, social, economic, legal, ethical or technological. What do technological responses like the cloning of endangered animals tell us about the connections between reproduction, gender and the environment? How do environmentalists discuss the implications of human population growth in an unequal world?

The gendered impacts of climate change are increasingly being documented by environmental and social justice organizations. As well as typically being held responsible for reproduction, women face greater risks of displacement, a higher burden of responsibility for subsistence and more severe health problems in relation to weather-related disasters. How are ideas about gender and reproductive health implicated in climate research? Does environmental campaigning reinforce heteronormative assumptions about reproduction, sex and gender or does it challenge an apparently gender-less world of environmental research, where reproduction is often sidelined in the face of seemingly more pressing economic or ethical concerns?

Potential topics include: the effects of climate change and environmental toxicity on diet, gendered bodies and reproductive health; GMOs and food security; seed banking; endangerment and extinction; reproductive decision-making and environmental concerns; conflicts over 'invasive' species; climate migration, kinship and fertility.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Harmful fumes and the family fire: the ambivalence of coal in rural China

Author: Charlotte Bruckermann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email

Short Abstract

Families in north China struggle to sustain healthy bodies in domestic contexts heavily reliant on coal as a source of income and energy. Everyday technologies and medical practices ameliorate the detrimental effects of coal vapour (meiqi) and soot (meiyan) on subsistence and reproduction.

Long Abstract

In the coal-rich Chinese province of Shanxi, atmospheric toxicity arises from industrial coal extraction, processing and energy production as smog occludes the sky and soot settles on the land. However, far from mines and plants, coal also constitutes a vital form of energy in the family home. At stoves attached to the family bed-platforms (kang) women use coal to heat and cook, while men generate income through their labour in mining-based heavy industries. This paper examines how families handle the effects of coal vapour (meiqi) and soot (meiyan) on subsistence and reproduction to sustain healthy bodies. It thereby offers an intimate domestic perspective on everyday technologies and medical practices addressing coal's life-sustaining and life-threatening powers.

Reproducing The Microenvironment - Self-Organisation of Laboratory-Grown Organoids In Scotland

Author: Karen Jent (University of Cambridge)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the limits of environmental reproductivity by looking at challenges scientists face when trying to grow in vitro organs through the production of microenvironments. How can the project of regenerating aging societies be a model for broader environmental and ecological issues?

Long Abstract

In recent years, techniques of growing bodily substances in the laboratory have been refined considerably to respond to ageing societies. They now include bodily structures with increased complexity - organoids - that are grown from stem cells. One of the central challenges to growing organoids in the lab is to create the right conditions - i.e. suitable microenvironments - so that different cell types organize into an organ-like architecture. Scientists frequently refer to the laboratory production of organoids as the self-organisation of cells that takes place in response to the microenvironment built by researchers. The notion of self-organisation points to the difficulties of producing organoids ready for public health application. It highlights a dimension of cellular growth that can never be completely determined by the in vitro setting. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with Scottish stem cell scientists, my paper traces these laboratory practices of environment building and explores how scientists grapple with the uncertainties of cellular growth in a context of public health and regenerative medicine. What is the conceptual impetus of efforts to produce an environment in the lab in regard to questions about the environment on a broader scale? Do in vitro environments share conceptual challenges with issues such as climate change? In what ways can the project of regenerating ageing societies and its questions regarding the limits of environmental reproductivity inspire the endeavour to regenerate a damaged ecology?

The Fabric of Personhood and Biodiversity Protection in a Peruvian Potato Park

Author: Olivia Angé (University of Wageningen)  email

Short Abstract

Exploring the relation between the making of personhood and tuber biodiversity protection in the context of a Peruvian in situ seed bank, the paper addresses the role of conservation policies in reproducing the environment and the perspectives on fertility that are produced in this context.

Long Abstract

Throughout the Andes, discourse on the protection of biocultural diversity has become a pervasive feature of rural development programmes. In the Sacred Valley - Peru - six peasants communities supported by a local NGO have settled a Potato Park aimed at preserving tubers' agrodiversity and enhancing agriculture resilience to climate change. Drawing on ethnographic data from this in situ seed bank, the paper addresses the role of conservation policies in reproducing the environment and the perspectives on fertility that are produced in this context. How concretely is the existence of a park seen to affect seeds and tubers fertile potential? How is this potential related to social and individual reproduction? To tackle these questions the paper unfolds the 'cosmoeconomy' (da Col) of potatoes posited by peasants. In this Andean region, where tuber cultivation is expressed in the idiom of kinship, this cosmoeconomy points to a local articulation between tubers' biodiversity protection and human reproduction. Exploring the relation between the making of personhood and biodiversity protection in the context of institutional heritage practices unfolds an Andean conception of personhood intimately related to the ecological and spiritual environment - two dimensions that conflate in the figure of Pachamama, Mother Earth.

Gender relations, reproduction, and environmental transformations

Author: Kristina Großmann (University Passau)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on empirical data from gender symmetric societies in Indonesia I will elaborate on negotiations, changes, and reinforcements of gendered productive and reproductive spheres induced by environmental transformations.

Long Abstract

Environmental transformations caused by the exploitation of natural resources or climate change have increased enormously in Southeast Asia during the last decades and affect gender relations and the productive and reproductive spheres of men and women. Environmental change and related transformations of economic systems and social structures thus could lead to new (self)concepts of gendered identities and gender roles. Drawing on empirical data from gender symmetric societies in Kalimantan, Indonesia, I will elaborate on negotiations, changes, and reinforcements of gendered productive and reproductive spheres induced by environmental transformations.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.