Ambient Thickness: The Atmospheric Materiality of the Anthropocene

Monday, April 9, 2018
talk by Gaston R. Gordillo

Cultural Anthropology is pleased to present

Ambient Thickness: The Atmospheric Materiality of the Anthropocene

Gastón Gordillo

The atmospheric, elusive, but powerful materiality of the droughts, wildfires, intense rainfalls, and toxic environments that define the Anthropocene cannot be accurately explained by our existing theories about place and space in the humanities. Based on ethnographic research among rural residents in northern Argentina who have been negatively affected by deforestation, agrichemical exposure, and climate change, I propose to analyze the atmospheric tactility of the Anthropocene through the concept of “ambient thickness”: i.e. the ambient intensities that in the form of heat, droughts, strong winds, or toxic substances affect human sensory experience, practice, and subjectivities. I argue that the idea of ambient thickness can help us better appreciate the shifting materiality of climatic phenomena and the fact that the atmospheres of the Anthropocene have a distinct composition, texture, and density.

Gastón Gordillo is Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. A Guggenheim Scholar, he is the author, among other books, of Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction (2014, Duke, Honorable Mention, Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing) and Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Argentinean Chaco (2004, Duke, Sharon Stephens Book Prize, American Ethnological Society).

Monday, April 9, 2018
1:30pm
Friedl Building, Room 225

For more information, please contact Maria Maschauer at mamascha@duke.edu