October 16, 2023
Cymene Howe |Rice University
3:00 PM in 315 Haskell Hall

ABSTRACT: Everywhere on earth, the elements increasingly imperil people and places, coming in the form of more virulent fires, floods, storms, and toxic exposures. The elements—classically in the form of earth, air, fire, and water, and in the epistemics of western science as the periodic table of elements—are an emergent, sometimes engulfing, set of properties, contexts, and forces affecting human and nonhuman communities everywhere. In this discussion, I make a tentative proposition, or an experimental invitation, to think through elemental ethnography as an anthropological practice. Drawing from my ongoing research on the connectivity of the world hydrosphere—from the melting ice of Iceland and Greenland to the rising seas of Cape Town and Honolulu—I will present a case for watery routes of passage and relation in our times of ecosocial precarity, offering elemental ethnography as an analytic, method, and theoretical mode of engagement. 

BIOGRAPHY: Cymene Howe is Professor of Anthropology at Rice University. Her books include Intimate Activism (Duke 2013) and Ecologics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene (Duke 2019), and the co-edited collections Anthropocene Unseen (Punctum 2020), Solarities: Elemental Encounters and Refractions (Punctum 2023) and The Johns Hopkins Guide to Critical and Cultural Theory. Her current research examines the changing dynamics between people and bodies of ice in the Arctic region and sea level adaptation in coastal cities around the world. She co-created the documentary film Not Ok: A Little Movie about a Small Glacier at the End of the World (2019) and initiated the world’s first memorial to a glacier fallen to climate change. The Okjökull memorial event in Iceland served as a global call to action and in memory of a world rapidly melting away. 

Please join us for a reception on Haskell’s mezzanine immediately following Dr. Howe’s talk.