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The world/s at the ends of the city.
Explorations in urban and environmental anthropology
11 June 2019
Institut für Europäische Ethnologie
This talk focuses on territorial conflicts in the Colombian port-city of Buenaventura in order to shed light on the tense relationship between posthumanist ontologies and antiracist politics. Departing from the naming problem surrounding the seaside shantytowns commonly known as Bajamar, it examines efforts to counter displacement pressures afflicting the port-city’s Afro-Colombian population. At stake is a concern for how to understand the intersection of racialized violence and coastal precarity in the context of global climate change. Pivoting on the figure of the “human,” the talk connects recent discussions of the Anthropocene to histories of racial slavery. The coastal landscapes and seascapes once central to the dehumanization of African diasporic life throughout the Americas emerge again as key sites in which the boundaries around the human are reconfigured. Positioning the boundary work of activists and residents of Buenaventura’s waterfront settlements alongside posthumanist thought and some of its critics, I argue that a reengagement with a submerged humanism is necessary for confronting the unequal distribution of precarity in the Anthropocene.
Austin Zeiderman is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at the London School of Economics. He is an interdisciplinary scholar who specializes in the cultural and political dimensions of urbanization, development, and the environment in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a specific focus on Colombia. His previous research has revolved around questions of security, citizenship, displacement, and the state in the cities of Bogotá and Buenaventura and he is currently working on a historical ethnography of capitalism, race, and nature along Colombia’s Magdalena River. Dr Zeiderman’s teaching focuses primarily on urbanism and futurity; geographies of race; and ethnography.