APLA at AAA 2017: Unfinished

The Anthropology of Becoming

Francis Alÿs, Reel-Unreel, 2011. In collaboration with Julien Devaux and Ajmal Maiwandi; video documentation of an action; film still.

Friday, December 1, 2017
10:15 AM – 12:00 PM
Location: Marriott, Washington Room 3

This session explores the plasticity and unfinishedness of human subjects and lifeworlds, advancing the conceptual terrain of an anthropology of becoming. People’s becomings trouble and exceed ways of knowing and acting, producing new possibilities for research, methodology, and writing. The papers creatively bridge ethnography and critical theory in a range of worlds on the edge, from war and its aftermath, economic transformation, racial inequality, and gun violence to religiosity, therapeutic markets, animal rights activism, and abrupt environmental change. Continuing conversations initiated at an earlier workshop, here the anthropologists pair up via co-authored presentations to engage in dialogues about critical elements of their fieldworks and shared theoretical concerns, including human/nonhuman interactions and distributive forms of agency, affective realities and spatial/cartographic approaches to subject formation, worldmaking and the politics of dissensus, the contingency of power and the poetics of desire, and ethnographic story-telling and concept-making. The panelists work to destabilize hierarchies of expertise and the distinction between the finished and the unfinished, illuminating the ethnographic open systems in which anthropologists and subjects are entangled, folded into lives, relations, political fields, transformations and thinking across time and space. Probing philosophical ideas about self-world entanglements and defying totalizing analytical schemes, the papers together articulate a human science of the uncertain and unknown and restore a sense of movement and possibility to ethics, political practice, and ethnographic expression.

Organizers: João Biehl (Princeton University) and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz (University of São Paulo)

Chairs: Peter Locke (Northwestern University) and Angela Garcia (Stanford University)

Discussant: Michael M.J. Fischer (M.I.T.)


The Anthropology of Becoming in Worlds on the Edge

João Biehl, Princeton University, and Peter Locke, Northwestern University

Becoming Aggrieved, Becoming Hopeful: The Generativity of Death

Laurence Ralph, Harvard University, and Angela Garcia, Stanford University

Question Machines: Relationality and Inner-Scaling in Today’s Urban Space-times

Naisargi Dave, University of Toronto, and Bridget Purcell, Princeton University

On Negative Becoming

Lucas Bessire, University of Oklahoma

Objects of Creation

Elizabeth A. Davis, Princeton University, and Lilia M. Schwarcz University of São Paulo

Horizoning Work and Emergent Forms of Life

Adriana Petryna, University of Pennsylvania, and Michael M.J. Fischer, M.I.T.

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