NYAS @ WGF 2/26: Passions for Interests: Water and Rural Political Belonging in America

Join us at the Wenner-Gren Foundation on February 26th at 5:45 PM for another great installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series. Jessica Cattelino, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies, associate director of the Center for the Study Women, University of California, Los Angeles, will be presenting, “Passions for Interests: Water and Rural Political Belonging in America”. Paige West, Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, will act as discussant.

Please note: the lecture begins at 6:30 PM, and while the event is free to attend pre-registration is required for entry into the building.

Event Registration:  If you will be registering for an event for the first time, the New York Academy of Sciences will ask you first to set up a user account with them. Registration is free and does not require divulging personal or financial information.

You can also register by phone, 212-298-8640 or 212-298-8600.  Early Registration is strongly recommended since seating is limited. 

The world faces a water crisis, with the United Nations predicting a 40% global water deficit by 2030. Recent water struggles in the United States, from Standing Rock to Flint to California’s droughts, exemplify a broader cultural politics whereby group s come to understand and assess one another through their relations to water. In the Florida Everglades, the world’s largest ecosystem restoration project is underway and has as its policy goal “getting the water right.” There, as across America, political analysis focus on so-called stakeholders and interest groups (such as agriculture and environment). Such passion for interests—as, purportedly, the forces that unite and explain political collectivities—stunts understandings about political belonging in rural America.

This presentation brings together two twenty-first-century examples of everyday politics in a mostly-drained rural region of the Florida Everglades: the headline-grabbing proposed buyout of a major sugar corporation by the State of Florida for purposes of Everglades restoration; and a major Seminole Tribe of Florida water conservation project. The economist A.O. Hirschman, in his influential book The Passions and the Interests (1977), explained how early proponents of capitalism struggled to reconcile the relationship of passions to interests. The political anthropology of interests presented in this lecture highlights their production and (in)commensuration in relation to water and capitalism. The goal is to think through and, hopefully, beyond the passion for “interests” in scholarly and popular understandings of American political life.


About the Speakers:

Jessica Cattelino’s research focuses on economy, nature, indigeneity, and settler colonialism. Her book, High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty (Duke University Press, 2008) won the Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff  Memorial Book Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of North America.  Her current book project addresses Everglades restoration and theorizes the co-production of nature and indigeneity in settler societies like the United States.  She speaks to the current concerns about environmental degradation and indigenous people’s roles in sparking struggles against the pollution of water sources and the destruction of precious resources such as the Everglades. Cattelino’s current research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Howard Foundation.

Paige West’s scholarly interest is the relationship between societies and their environments. She has written about the intersections between indigenous epistemic practices and conservation science, the linkages between environmental conservation and international development, the material and symbolic ways in which the natural world is understood and produced, the aesthetics and poetics of human social relations with nature, and the creation of commodities and practices of consumption.  Recent books include Dispossession and The Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea (2016), From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea (2012) (2013 runner up for the Julian Steward Award from the American Anthropological Association) and, co-edited with James G. Carrier, Virtualism, Governance, and Practice: Vision and Execution in Environmental Conservation (2009). Dr. West is a past president of the Anthropology and Environment Section of the American Anthropological Association, past chair of the Association of Social Anthropology in Oceania, and past chair of the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College. She is founder and co-editor of the journal Environment and Society: Advances in Research.  In 2017 / 2018 she is a distinguished national speaker for Phi Beta Kappa.  Dr. West is a co-founder of the PNG Institute of Biological Research in Papua New Guineans. She is the volunteer anthropologist for the PNG NGO Ailan Awareness (AA), a marine-focused organization that works with communities in New Ireland and New Hanover to facilitate the conservation of their traditions, languages, and natural resources.

Buffet Dinner at 5:45 pm ($20 contribution for dinner guests / free for students).

Lecture begins at 6:30 pm and are free and open to the public.

Pre-registration is required for entry into the building.

All talks in this series take place at the Wenner-Gren Foundation Building, 470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor, New York (at 32nd Street).

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