Volatile Futures / Earthly Matters

Dates | May 26–27, 2017
Location | Bennington College, CAPA Symposium
Contact |

Free and open to the public

Organizers | David Bond (Bennington College) and Joseph Masco (University of Chicago)
Participants | Andrea Ballestero (Rice University), Lucas Bessire (University of Oklahoma), Alex Blanchette (Tufts University), Kim Fortun (RPI), Kristina Lyons (UC Santa Cruz), Andrew Mathews (UC Santa Cruz), Amy Moran-Thomas (MIT), Adriana Petryna (University of Pennsylvania), Juno Salazar Parrenas (Ohio State University), and Nicholas Shapiro (Chemical Foundation).

Where and when does the Anthropocene come to matter?

Looking at inundated low-lying islands, the melting Arctic, or the coastal wrath of super storms, many suggest such contemporary moments prophesy the future that awaits us all. Others, returning to the ecological fallout of the colonial plantation, hydrocarbon imperialism, or nuclear weapons, suggest our impending unraveling rests on deeper investments in destruction.

This conference invites reflections on these tensions, not necessarily to resolve them to but to reflect on what political realities they work to instantiate. As questions of planetary injury come to drive theoretical debates and reframe empirical studies, this conference inquires into the conditions of possibility for recognizing emergent scales and temporalities of earthly volatility. We invite descriptions of ecological instability as a lived condition, including those experiences that find intuitive articulation on planetary scales and those contemporary inequities that do not.

We are also interested in how infrastructures of surveillance are calibrated—or recalibrated—to earthly accruals of power, the commensurability's such measures allow for, and the politics they imply. As the figure of planetary crisis gains moral authority to order and orient the present, such questions imply a rising need for new forms of understanding. It is becoming clear that the expenditures, sovereignties, and forms of objectivity that helped tilt earth systems beyond the fixtures of modernist life can no longer provide the basis of critical reflection and political action. What kinds of unruly language, historical alliances, and insurgent solidarities are now needed, if not to tame planetary volatility than to navigate more equitable ways of living through it?


Friday, May 26

10:00–10:15 AM  |  Welcome and Introductions

10:15–11:45 AM  |  Between the Planetary and the Personal

  • Amy Moran-Thomas, “Pennsylvania Salient: Standard Fracturing and Mine”
  • Joseph Masco, “Living in the Psychozoic: On Planetary Stress”

1:00–2:30 PM  |  The Storms Already Among Us

  • Alex Blanchette, “Living Dust, Fecal Storms, and the Labor of Antibiotic Resistance”
  • Kristina Lyons, “Chemical Warfare in Columbia, Evidentiary Ecologies, and Senti-Actuando Practices of Justice”

2:45–4:15 PM  |  Sensing an Unruly Beyond

  • Andrea Ballestero, “Lithic Architectures, Sympathetic Sensing, and Underground Drift”
  • Andrew Mathews, “Sensing Disaster and Transformation: Modeling Italian Forest Futures”

Saturday, May 27

9:45–10:00 AM  |  Welcome Back

10:00–11:30 AM  |  Breaking Away

  • Adriana Petryna, “Inside Runaway Change”
  • Nicholas Shapiro, “Never Broken Enough”

12:30–2:00 PM  |  Living In and Against Planetary Crisis

  • Juno Salazar Parreñas, “Between Epochs and Seconds of Orangutan Temporality: Recalibrating Time in the Anthropocene”
  • Lucas Bessire, “Running Out”


Cover Photo: "Cleared Lot," by Lisa Sanditz