The American Anthropological Association held their 114th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado on November 18-22, 2015. These large conferences are often difficult for students to participate due to travel and registration expenses; however, with the proximity of the conference to CSU and financial help from Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU), two Department of Anthropology graduate students, Haley Davies and Emma Hatcher, were able to attend on “Student Saturday.” For the anthropologists that could not attend, the students wrote a summary and reflection of their favorite session.
Session :: Culture at Large- Injury and Creation: Conversations with Elaine Scarry
by Haley Davies
Elaine Scarry of Harvard University, Carolyn R. Nordstrom from University of Notre Dame, Omar Al- Dwachi from American University of Beirut, and Joseph Masco from the University of Chicago contributed to a particularly engaging discussion concerning the problems posed by nuclear weapons. The significance of nuclear weapons is striking, especially considering the limited control over them; there are over 17,300 nuclear weapons in the world and almost all of them are American or Russian. Scarry calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons due to the potential harm they could inflict and highlights the uselessness of nuclear weapons. It is illogical to accumulate such powerful weapons that the only means to survive this sort of warfare would be to strike first and demolish another country’s ability to respond or even function. However, the detonation of a small portion of these weapons would create an overall unlivable environment and cause substantial injury to the global population that would be unrecoverable. Nordstrom, Al-Dwachi, and Masco continue support for diminishing the creation and maintenance of nuclear weapons through an examination of the constructions and purposes of violence, pain, and injury. Responsibility was demonstrated as a necessary concept that must be undertaken by the general population, especially American citizens, to diminish the threat of destruction by nuclear weapons. Currently, the control of nuclear weapons is limited to select few in governmental positions, such as the president of the United States. However, Scarry, Nordstrom, Al-Dwachi, and Masco illustrate that the limitation of power is detrimental to those that will actually reap the consequences of detonation, thus instilling the need for action. This conversation highlighted the plight of the global population against nuclear weapons and challenged notions of power and reinforcement. ☮
Session :: Toxic Natures: Environmental Senses and Sediments
by Emma Hatcher
This session addressed alternate ecological paradigms which must be incorporated into policy addressing post-industrial public health matters and ecosystem management. A particularly notable case, presented by Dr. Eben Kirksey from University of New South Wales, was one in which an endangered frog species has been able to thrive in an abandoned wasteland left by Australia’s Sydney Olympic Park. This species is endangered in its natural habitat due to the spread of a particular fungus. This fungus, however, is unable to survive in the highly polluted environment, making it a haven for this species. As local government considers how to move forward with this site, it is clear that a path of nature has already taken course, without waiting for human action to move forward in restoring these areas. My own perspective coming into this meeting has always been that pollution destroys nature, and it can’t be restored without our help, but this case demonstrates that nature can continue regardless, raising the question of whether this is the rule rather than an exception. This was not presented as a justification for heavy polluters, but instead, challenges how we understand the broad impact of interventions to restore ecosystems following completed or abandoned industrial programs. It requires interdisciplinary analysis of developing ecosystems in these areas, and an interdisciplinary approach to inform policies that include an understanding what natural courses may be taken due to restoration efforts prior to the initiation of these efforts.