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Sensing Disaster and Transformation: Modeling the Dramas of Italian Forest Futures

Presented by Andrew Mathews, professor of anthropology at UC Santa Cruz. Hosted by the Department of Anthropology.

Nov 20, 2017
from 04:00 PM to 06:00 PM

Andrews Conference Room, 2203 SS&H


The Anthropocene asks us to confront futures that exceed the capacities of modernist prediction. Earth system and ecological models struggle to contain indeterminacy, disasters, and the monstrous transformations that can emerge from the more than human relations of humans and non-humans. In Italian forests, plant pathogens can destroy key species or be tamed by diseases and new associates of their own; agricultural abandonment can produce fragile and fire prone landscapes, or can invite practices of care which stabilize mountain forests. This talk compares the practices of ecological modelers who probe indeterminate futures, with my own ethnohistory of landscapes. Natural history and modeling press us to notice how causal stories are called into being through precise forms of attention that propel stories across scales. Finally, I wonder what kinds of storytelling practices and genres we can use for recounting families of stories, and point to the picaresque and the murder mystery, as possible genres for telling stories of multiple unstable futures.