Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

In and out of the weather: Resonance, discord and transformation in our weathered worlds
Location Senate House - Montague Room
Date and Start Time 27 May, 2016 at 11:30
Sessions 2


  • Elizabeth Rahman (University of Oxford) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

As weather patterns fluctuate, groups of people pragmatically decide either to live with these changes in situ, or to migrate. The panel examines what is distinctive, unusual or unfamiliar in these atmospheric worlds, and our knowledge of them.

Long Abstract

The weather is intimately entwined with local, and particularly sustainable, livelihoods and lifestyles. As weather patterns fluctuate, groups of people pragmatically decide either to live with these changes in situ, or to migrate. In situ, local knowledge and land management may be evaluated as sustainable, or be transformed in dialogue with wider climate change discourse and practice. On the other hand, shifts in climate are often accompanied by fluxes in the human population. When climatic shifts prompt migration, they open an arena of wider social and political challenges, and speak to global concerns. However, migration is also seen as giving rise to the climatic shifts that people experience. In the face of these movements, through sustainable strategies and approaches, questions arise as to how one might accommodate outsiders and/or their alternate knowledge. This panel examines this interface between expectations, transgressions and impediments, at home and away - and their respective knowledge of socio-environmental fluxes and flows - by considering what is different, unusual or unfamiliar about these atmospheric worlds.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Down to air. Palestinian memories of weather relatedness, agricultural skills and our models of materiality

Author: Mauro Van Aken (University of Milan-Bicocca)  email

Short Abstract

In the West Bank, the memory of the “rainy season” calendar is resilient in reading radical local changes and patterns of farming engagements, where perceiving “air” was connected “down to earth”: this challenges our models of management of the material and our patterns of disconnections.

Long Abstract

Both among Palestinian refugees in Jordan as in daily skills in the Occupied West Bank, the memory of a weather calendar of the "rainy season"(winter) is resilient, in the frame of the radical changes of intensive agribusiness, of land colonization and the demise of pastoralism.

This composed a complex winter/rainy schedule and classification of 90 days of increasing rain/wet/cold wished periods, intimately interlinked to the needs of water in arid environment and farming/pastoral practices. This pattern of interlinkage of human and non human activities framed relationality of peasant wishes connected to humidity, wind types, temperature decrease of land, mule-ploughing techniques, insect signing phases still at work today.

Due to the limitedness and variability of rain season, atmosphere has been framed as a rainsphere and sphere of circulation, in which farm skills could get engaged at their best in order to save as much humidity for the longer, dry, hot summer season.

In the West Bank, due to military occupation, environment is not the main concern facing daily insecurity in one of the most high-tech experiments of land colonization. This weather knowledge necessarily engaged in arid environment (and not denying it), helps in understanding contemporary perception of the "air" as locus of risk (military visual control, attacks, drones) in Palestinian context as much as local skills in home farming based on circulation of resources. Besides, it challenges our model of "management" of the material facing the ambivalence, the relationality of fluid water and air and our pattern of engagement within.

The greedy anaconda and the rainy spell of the mythic frog Aru: Winter for the Warekena of the north-western Brazilian Amazon

Author: Elizabeth Rahman (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

Winter is the time of powerful others: the Greedy Anaconda, the Great Armadillo and the Aru, a mythic people who travel extensively and today manifest as manioc garden frogs. These persons, of cosmic proportions, affect the weather and processes that inform the reproduction of Warekena society.

Long Abstract

The onset of winter is accompanied by a fine drizzle, a steady cool breeze and a dense fog which opaquely obscures the surface of the Xie river´s waters and the surrounding forest. This is known as ´the time of Aru´. Emerging with these rains, aru is the name of a particular species of frog that occupies newly planted manioc gardens. In the past, however, the Aru were people. The Aru came from far away, always journeying up-river with (and creating) the season´s wind and rain and travelling extensively. A few months later, at the height of winter, thunderous roars and lightning accompany the Great Armadillo as he digs at the river´s banks, causing erosion and reducing the land surface for the region´s terrestrial inhabitants. The Great Celestial Anaconda that occupies the summer night sky now descends to become the deep and fast-flowing river that floods the forest. In this incarnation, the snake is responsible for diminishing the fish population, which he greedily consumes, much to the chagrin of the Xié River dwelling population who are left wanting. The adverse weather and the emergence of powerful others leads Warekena to retire to their communities. In relative confinement and unable to work, they are prone to sasiara - a state of lassitude, and an idiom that conveys both sickness and sadness. This experience is part of a process. This paper explores how the cosmic and climatic transformations of winter are synchronized to cycles of human reproduction; cycles that have always relied on others.

Climate change and cultural environmental adaptations

Author: Ani Bajrami (University of Tirana)  email

Short Abstract

The biophilia hypothesis proposed by the renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson suggests that there is an innate bond between humans and living systems. This “urge to affiliate” with the natural world is an evolutionary product and helps humans to better adapt to their natural habitat.

Long Abstract

Climate change is affecting the natural habitat of millions of people and social groups face new challenges in order to better adapt. For example, the majority of rural Albanian population depends on agriculture for their living but due to climate changes, rural areas were affected by flooding and landslides. According to The World Bank, due to the floods, especially in the south of Albania, agricultural areas has been damaged and this will certainly affect the economy of the country. Furthermore, flooding and landslides has caused economic problems and people affected move away from their homes. Past eco-traditions- traditions concerned with human-environment bonds and eco-knowledge in social groups- are not consistent with climate change effects in the life and economy of everyday people. These eco-traditions has shaped the behaviours of people toward their living habitat for centuries but in the light of new developments, they do not solve anymore the adaptive problems created by climate change. Climate change offers new challenges to social groups and is not consistent with people's past eco-traditions and new means of adaptions must be created in order to solve the newly adaptive problems caused by climate change.

Into the abyss of the political

Author: Giovanni Bettini (Lancaster University)  email

Short Abstract

Reflections and qualms about the possibility of progressive approaches to ‘climate migration’

Long Abstract

The recent hecatombs in the Mediterranean and rising walls around Europe reaffirm the urgency of climate migration - the bodies drowning or shot while jumping over a fence might bear on their skin also the signs of climate change. However, the dark shadow cast by such tragedies does not per se indicate a line to follow, and the paucity of the approaches that have emerged so far is striking. We have been haunted by the figure of climate refugees - a distillate of colonial imaginaries and Malthusian spectres, heavily criticized by scholarship. More recently, we have seen the affirmation of biopolitical discourses that signify climate migration as a set of mobility responses, including (governed) migration promoted as a legitimate adaptation strategy. All in all, it is hard to spot any progressive approach to so called climate migration.

This intervention argues that a precondition for any radical/emancipatory approach is the recognition that there is no escape from the 'political abyss' associated to migration/mobility - even more so when linked to climate change. Seeing the matter as a battle (or choice) between the geopolitical (and/or humanitarian) optic embodied in the figure of climate refugees, and the biopolitical figure of the disciplined adaptive 'climate migrant' is a shortcut that represses what is at stake - that is, the irreducibly political tension inherent in every form of mobility as much as in every attempt to discipline/govern it.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.