Author: Camille Wright

Camille Wright was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is currently the Books Publicity Assistant at Duke University Press, where she started as a journals marketing intern in May 2017, and CEO and founder of Merch by Millie, a handmade apparel and accessories shop. Other organizations Wright is involved with include Believe Ticket Project, where she creates email campaigns, graphic content, fact sheets and ask letters, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Girl Scouts of America.

Q&A with Jacob Blanc, author of Before the Flood

blanc-photo.jpgJacob Blanc is a lecturer in Latin American History at the University of Edinburgh and coeditor of Big Water: The Making of the Borderlands between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. His newest book, Before the Flood: The Itaipu Dam and the Visibility of Rural Brazil, examines the creation of the Itaipu Dam—the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world—on the Brazil–Paraguay border during the 1970s and 1980s to explore the long-standing conflicts around land, rights, indigeneity, and identity in rural Brazil.

What first drew you to study the Itaipu flood? When in your research did you realize the history of Itaipu was rich and complex enough for you to write an entire book on it?

In full disclosure, I had not even heard the name ‘Itaipu’ before my first semester of graduate school. I knew I wanted to study some aspect of rural labor history, but aside from my general interest in politics of the Latin American countryside, I did not have a specific case study to start with. Eventually I came across Itaipu, and it seemed like each time I found a new body of sources, or each time I thought I had a clear sense of what the main narrative was, it kept changing. Was this a history of farmers versus a dictatorship? Yes, but it was more complex. Was there solidarity amongst the different displaced groups? Yes, but it was more complex. Was land a central catalyst for the protest movements? Yes, but the lands that would be flooded did not have the same social meanings for all of the displaced communities. I started out thinking this would be a history about rural protest against military rule, but the kaleidoscope of stories that Itaipu brought together resulted in something much bigger: a history of rurality, and the contingencies of life, political struggle, and community in the countryside.

There were a few key moments in my research where these insights really took root. The first was when I began my interviews with farming communities in western Paraná, Brazil. My first stage of research had mostly focused on archival evidence of the protest encampments against Itaipu, which yielded a lot of fascinating and important details on the standoff between rural communities and the dictatorship. In this initial research I come across some hints of internal conflict in the camps, but it was only when I spent time talking with people that had participated in the protests did I begin to understand the full complexity of what took place. Landless peasants spoke of feeling marginalized within the movement (where their demands for redistribution of land was drowned out by the call for higher prices to be paid for legally owned property), indigenous leaders told me about their parallel movement to seek cultural and political rights, and even the landed small-farmers who had led the main protests shared memories that were far more nuanced than the archival record suggested. It was in this vortex of testimonies that I began to piece together the complex and often-contradictory ways that the displaced communities mobilized in defense of their soon-to-be-flood lands.

A second key moment was when in a twist of good fortune and perseverance, I gained access to the archives of the Itaipu dam. This was something that no scholar had previously done and I was able to spend two months going through their holdings. Because Itaipu was so deeply embedded in the dictatorship’s development and security structures, its archive was a window into the logic of authoritarian rule. From here, I was able to place the question of land at the center of my narrative: how a wide range of actors viewed and acted upon their understanding of what the lands around Itaipu meant and what role the region should play in the future of Brazil.

Before the FloodInstead of centering the book around the technological and ecological effects of the Itaipu Binational hydroelectric dam, you set out to ask what the flooded lands meant to different Brazialian rural groups. What do you find missing in these other accounts? How does the history of the flood change when told from those on the land itself?

It is completely understandable that scholars have devoted time to studying the largest hydroelectric dam in the world: it was a tremendous feat of engineering, and compounded by the conflicts that unfolded between Brazil and Paraguay to harness the energy of the seventh-longest river on the planet, the Itaipu dam was, and continues to be, a remarkable technological achievement. The construction of Itaipu forms part of my book, but it is more as an explanatory backdrop for how, and why, the military government saw this border region as a central part of its worldview. By shifting attention away from the construction of the dam per se, and by focusing instead on the livelihoods that converged in the flood zone, I want to help us see that a history of water management (a giant hyrdoelectric dam) contains an equally important history of land. The narrative shift from water to land opens new questions on the social and material meanings of land. And given that the book is guided by my framework of rural visibility, this shift also lets us explore what it means for a region to be rendered invisible. This process of invisibility was both literal (Itaipu’s flood inundating 1,500 square kilometers of land) and discursive, with rural livelihoods delegitimized in national imaginations.

You work with a framework of visibility, drawing on works from Rob Nixon and others to think about how the nation-state, in its constitution, relies upon the exclusion of communities and places that are rendered invisible through “active unimagining.” How much do certain historical methodological practices contribute to this unimagining? In what way is your alternative periodization– exploring non-chronological modes of writing history– an intervention into historical invisibilities?

This also links really well to the above question, where a potential limitation of a techno-ecological history of a megadam like Itaipu is that it takes its starting point at the moment of the dam’s conception. That is, it operates chronologically on the terms of the nation-state and the governments and corporations that build these massive development projects. Here, the theme of unimagining is important both historically and methodologically.

In terms of method, it can often be very hard to reverse this process of unimagining. In part, this relates to the challenge of ‘doing’ subaltern history and the limits we have as historians—especially those of us working from positions of personal and professional privilege. But histories of development and forced relocation present further problems still: a proper history of Itaipu requires finding communities that had been uprooted from their homes and who then dispersed throughout the region and the country as a whole. So, I could have stayed just in the areas around the present-day dam and put together a pretty good history of rural mobilization that would still have ticked a lot of the boxes of subaltern and grassroots history. Even just including those voices would have been an important intervention in scholarship on dictatorship that has tended to focus on urban spaces and the more traditional vectors of political protest such as student movements, unions, and political parties.

But to more fully present the histories on display at Itaipu, this required me to build networks of solidarity and trust in order to get introduced to people who could put me in touch with several lines of connections that eventually allowed me to meet with peasant and indigenous communities whose perspectives were vital to round out the story I was able to tell. The logistics of this were often exhausting and uncertain; in one case I took a ten-hour bus ride solely on the suggestion that somebody I was hoping to interview lived in a small faraway town. I did not have their phone number or address, but sure enough, when I arrived I was able to ask around for the farmer and eventually found him, where I was invited to not only hear his memories from the time of Itaipu but to also stay the night with him and his family. So methodologically, our goal of trying to reverse this state of unimagining depends also on a certain amount of commitment and trust in our own process. That is not always feasible, and there are of course very real challenges (many of which are gendered, classed, and racialized) to conducting this form of fieldwork, but it can be a powerful approach to actively re-imagine histories that might otherwise continue to be overlooked.

And in terms of non-chronological modes of history-writing, this was something I went back and forth on a lot during my research and then while preparing the book. There is profound weight in the decisions we make as historians, not just in choosing to tell certain histories over others, but even in how we present the stories we do choose to tell. Structurally in my book, I opted for a bit of both worlds, where the first half progresses chronologically in three chapters from the pre-history of the dam through the Itaipu flood in 1982, and then in the second half I have four chapters that give the histories that predated, ran parallel, and ultimately outlasted the more standard history of what took place at Itaipu. By framing this explicitly as such, my hope is to de-emphasize the more linear narratives that tend to get deployed for paradigmatic events like a development project and even Brazil’s dictatorship more broadly. This again comes back to trying to intervene in historical invisibilities, and I sought to not only present histories such as indigenous mobilization, peasant displacement, and landless consciousness, but to also frame them as more than just ancillary themes to the larger story. Instead, they exist as standalone stories with their own chronologies.

You use the phrase “double reality” to describe the simultaneous events of the Itaipu flood, an expression of military power, and the 1982 election, a symbolic return to democratic rule in Brazil. What is the significance of naming the effects of both events as realities? What does it mean to recognize a multiplicity of realities?

‘Reality’ conveys a sense of both what is happening and also what is perceived to be happened. For the case of Itaipu, this is particularly powerful for the official timing of Brazil’s transition from dictatorship to democracy, the process known as abertura. Through my history of rural political struggles and their alternative visions for democracy, I introduce the idea of a double reality of abertura, with competing perceptions of how military rule was experienced. So what does that mean for the multiplicity of realities? It means that there is an imagined idea of a country that has a particular chronology attached to it; in this case, that of a transition from a military to a civilian regime. And yet people experience the big idea at the heart of that transition, the abertura, as a double reality, whose chronology and evolving meanings play out in drastically different ways.

By looking at these histories as both events and realities, we are able to draw out the attachments that different groups project onto what they see transpiring around them. This is important because in arguing for a double reality of abertura, I am not saying that rural Brazilians (or any marginalized group for that matter) is unable to extract real benefits and beliefs from official or mainstream events like the abertura. Instead, I use the idea of doubling to show two main threads. First, how the more official forms of politics like abertura are unable and uninterested in accommodating the ideas and livelihoods like those of the displaced groups at Itaipu. And second, despite these limitations, marginalized groups nonetheless invoke and redeploy official events and narratives to advance their own goals. The concept of double reality helps us explore the lived and discursive experiences of being both marginalized and empowered.

In the aftermath of the flood, mass displacement and resettlement allowed landless workers to lead a new charge to reform agrarian policies in Brazil. How much did these landless movements address issues that predated the flood and even a dictator-ruled Brazil?

The landless campaign in Brazil (knows as the MST) has become one of the largest social movements in the world over the past several decades. Founded in 1984, one year before the official end of dictatorship, the MST has championed ideas and demands that long predated the start of military rule in 1964. As is the case all over the world, the question of land has been a constant in Brazilian history, and especially in the twentieth-century there is a long tradition of organized campaigns to win access to land through direct-action occupations. My history of Itaipu helps link the emergence of the post-dictatorship MST through some the earlier iterations of landless campaigns, both before and during the military regime. Although few scholars have yet to fully acknowledge this genealogy, the movement that took place just after Itaipu played a pivotal role in the formation of the MST. And placed within the larger context of landless mobilizations across twentieth-century Brazil, we also see why these groups were met with such sustained waves of repression: because the demand for agrarian reform and the structural redistribution of land was seen as a threat by elites under both military and civilian rule, landless movements have confronted serious challenges regardless of whether the country has been ruled by a dictatorship or a democracy.

Although you name your book Before the Flood, you conclude by challenging neat concepts of “before” and “after” and suggest developing a “plurality of timelines” around a historical event. Do you find there to be further room to challenge the logics of temporality in history? Is it possible to imagine a history that undoes the timeline itself?

This was another tricky, though quite fun, aspect of my project. How to challenge the logics of temporality while at the same time using those logics to advance my arguments. Periodization is at the heart of what we do as historians: we frame a problem and we try to figure out periods of time that in some way are a good match for the problem. And especially as we navigate the process of writing a book, there are logistical and professional demands for telling a story in a way that is legible and efficient. What I tried to achieve was a balance between linear and non-linear storytelling, with enough step-backs and links to show how the multiple sets of temporalities did not exist separate from each other. Instead, the various narratives I cover in my book are in a constant state of engagement and mutual reinforcement. The official chronology of the Itaipu dam and of Brazil’s dictatorship provided a central referent for the other stories I needed to tell. So rather than thinking about writing history in a way that undoes the timeline, we might be better suited to thinking about how to present a wide range of voices that in some form interact with a common temporal thread. This can help us rethink the parameters of how we understand, and how we define, periods of history.

Do you think your work can serve as a blueprint for future methodological experimentation that works outside traditional periodization frameworks?

I hope my book can help spur new approaches to rethinking periodization. Because while my particular case study concerns the Brazilian countryside and the livelihoods of rural Brazilians, the same holds true for any group or community whose reality does not align with mainstream periods of time. My case study was the countryside, but it could have been anywhere that contains competing social realities. And this stands equally across Latin America and globally as well. When we begin to take seriously that officially canonized dates and events do not hold the same social weight for all members of a community or of a nation, we can start to re-imagine on what terms we set historical boundaries.

Read the introduction to Before the Flood free online and save 30% on the paperback edition using coupon code E19BLANC.

National Hispanic Heritage Month Reads

September 15th through October 15th is National Hispanic American Heritage Month. To celebrate, we have selected several of our recent books and journal issues that explore Chincanx and Latinx studies, art, and history, as well as bring awareness to issues faced by the Latinx community.

978-0-8223-6938-7_prIn Eros IdeologiesLaura E. Pérez analyzes Latina art to explore a new notion of decolonial thought and love based on the integration of body, mind, and spirit that offers a means to creating a more democratic and just present and future.

Renato Rosaldo’s new prose poetry collection, The Chasers, shares his experiences and those of his group of twelve Mexican-American Tucson High School friends known as the Chasers as they grew up, graduated, and fell out of touch, conveying the realities of Chicano life on the borderlands from the 1950s to the present.

In Deported Americans, legal scholar and former public defender, Beth C. Caldwell, tells the story of dozens of immigrants who were deported from the United States—the only country they have ever known—to Mexico, tracking the harmful consequences of deportation for those on both sides of the border.

Chicano and Chicana ArtChicano and Chicana Art, curated by Jennifer A. González, C. Ondine Chavoya, Chon Noriega, and Terezita Romo, is an anthology that includes essays from artists, curators, and critics and provides an overview of the history and theory of Chicano/a art from the 1960s to the present, emphasizing the debates and vocabularies that have played key roles in its conceptualization.

Pop América, 1965–1975, edited by Esther Gabara, is a bilingual, fully illustrated catalogue. It accompanies the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University’s exhibition Pop América, 1965–1975, which presents a vision of Pop art across the Americas as a whole.

coverimage-3Trans Studies en las Américas,” a special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, is an unprecedented English-language collection by Latin American and Latinx scholars on trans and travesti issues. Contributors offer a hemispheric perspective on trans and travesti issues, expand transgender studies to engage geopolitical connections, and bring interdisciplinary approaches to topics ranging from policy to cultural production.

With roots in protest and social change, Latinx theater carries an artistic vitality and urgency that has only been augmented by resistance to the current wave of repressive white nationalism. In “What’s Next for Latinx?“, an issue of Theater, contributors ask where Latinx theater is going and what challenges it faces.

Q&A with Leah Zani, Author of Bomb Children

Zani, Leah author photo

Leah Zani is a Junior Fellow in the Social Science Research Network at the University of California, Irvine and the author of the new book Bomb Children: Life in the Former Battlefields of Laos. In Bomb Children, Zani considers how the people and landscape of Laos have been shaped and haunted by the physical remains of unexploded ordnance from the CIA’s Secret War.

How did this project start? What brought you to the former battlefields of Laos?

For nearly ten years prior to and during my early research on this project, I thought of myself as a disability studies scholar and advocate. My experiences with dyslexia sparked my scholarly interests in disability. As a child in segregated remedial classes, I was told by my teachers that I would never graduate from high school—let alone finish a bachelor’s, or a doctorate, or write a book!

So I had this personal interest in disability studies. I had intended to study experiences of disability in Laos as they relate to the war, doing fieldwork with the state’s national prosthetics factory and rehabilitation center. Once I was on the ground in Laos, I realized that this was not feasible due to restrictions on foreign researchers—clinicians told me that I could not talk to patients—and made nearly impossible by government restructuring. I sensed that every few months, the name of the appropriate ministry changed as well as the appropriate paperwork. I couldn’t find a way “in” to a project on disability.

While I struggled to find an open door at the rehabilitation center, I was also building connections with humanitarian and development workers, many of whom were involved in victim assistance or explosives clearance. I quickly realized: There was my open door! I began spending more time with humanitarian and development organizations working in former battlefields. My earlier interest in disability studies is still present in the book if you look for it: my theorizing of danger as a disability; my critique of the language of the accident; and my attention to military wasting, i.e., military waste as a process that is simultaneously embodied, ecological, and geopolitical. I came to the project with an existing interest in bodies, the senses, risk, and impairment.

When I started this project, I did not know that the United States had covertly and massively bombed Laos for nine years. The Secret War was initially a silent backdrop to my research on disability, and the war slowly moved into the foreground to become my primary research focus.

978-1-4780-0485-1_pr

You include what you call “fieldpoems” in the book. How does poetry help you make sense of what you learn in the field?

I came to poetry intuitively, provoked by my own confusion in the field. I didn’t know how to process or record what I was experiencing. In the book, I describe this feeling as a kind of vertigo: standing on the edge of another reality, feeling pulled in, but my feet still firmly planted. I was doing fieldwork in Phonsavanh, arguably the most bombed part of our planet. The town was flattened and then rebuilt after the war using bits and pieces of war debris. There had been no systematic clearance after the war, meaning that people rebuilt the town on top of thousands of live bombs. This existential particularity lends itself to poetry. My sense is that a lot of ethnographers come to poetry via this or a similar path: a wrestling with excess, looking over an edge, or losing one’s language. Poetry can be used to notice and give meaning to experiences that resist description.

Later, my interest in poetry led me to the Lao practice of poetic parallelism. In this regional poetic form, lines are split across multiple columns, the gaps generating an unresolvable tension. Parallelism became the central organizing frame of the book—it unlocked my awareness of how war simmers into everyday paranoia, helped me to recognize when interlocutors were sharing information discreetly and gave me a language for writing about peacetime life and ongoing war violence without dissolving one into the other. And I would probably not have picked up on parallelism if I hadn’t already been writing poems. For this project, poetry was a field method that encouraged a related method of poetic inquiry: thus, “fieldpoetry,” poems written as fieldnotes.

My use of fieldpoetry is linked to my experiences with dyslexia: Words are not the way that I know things, so when I write poems as evidence, I mean that they are evidence in this slightly estranged way, a kind of bewilderment or wandering away from words. As a feminist and queer scholar, poetry is one way to engage with what Strathern called “nonknowing” as evidence that does not depend on positivism. Poems are a way for me to explore nonknowing while still feeling rooted and sure of myself. I wrote poems before I wrote ethnographies, and the two are mutually supportive in my work. We need to mainstream more diverse methods and representation practices in anthropology, methods that are as varied as the people and events that we encounter.

I recently became the poetry editor at Anthropology and Humanism, the journal of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. I am, as far as I know, the only poetry editor at a peer-reviewed journal in the social sciences.

You take particular interest in the sociocultural impact of cluster submunitions, known in Laos as “bomb children.” What is it about these particular bombs or their impact that stand out to you?

Zani 1

Live explosive ordnance on display at a government office in Phonsavan, Xieng Khouang Province. Photo by the author.

Cluster munitions have a social and cultural impact that distinguishes them from conventional weapons. They are, like landmines, a type of antipersonnel weapon that contaminates the places that people live. They are mines in every way that matters. Earlier versions of the Mine Ban Treaty prohibited cluster munitions alongside landmines. Under American pressure, delegates removed cluster munitions from the Mine Ban; the United States signed the Mine Ban but has yet to sign the subsequent Convention on Cluster Munitions. Since deploying these weapons in Laos, the United States has more recently used cluster munitions in the Middle East and continues to sell them.

When a bomber drops a cluster munition from their plane, the force of the fall opens the bomb to disperse hundreds or thousands of smaller submunitions, or bomblets, over vast areas. In Lao, the larger munition is called a “bomb mother” and the smaller bomblets are called “bomb children.” These bomblets are usually the size of two fists held together, lightweight and durable. During the Secret War in Laos, about a third of these bomblets failed to explode on impact. A bomblet will generally not explode if stepped on, though a fire or the impact of a farm tool will likely set it off. Due to their small size, durability, and geographic spread, even heavily bombed areas are still often farmed and inhabited. This means that cluster munitions become part of life—under people’s houses, found in rice fields, used for metal scrap—in ways that challenge distinctions between war and peace, or battlefield and village. They have a unique sociocultural signature, a wasting of the everyday. In the book, I develop a theory of the sociocultural blast radius: the radius of social and cultural effects surrounding explosive ordnance (such as family stigma, endemic risk, ecological destruction, and poverty). A bomb’s sociocultural blast radius is much larger than its zone of mere physical destruction.

Under President Trump, the United States rolled back restrictions on the use of these weapons and is now using cluster munitions with higher failure rates and thus higher civilian causalities.

The title of the book is a reference to the Lao practice of calling these smaller bomblets “bomb children.” The phrase is also a way for me to think about how these weapons have multi-generational, long term effects that exceed the logic of war. I like how the phrase gestures to a future after bombing. And yet, the United States intended the bombing to ruin the incoming state’s capacity to flourish; in a sense, the United States was bombing the future. Fifty years after the war, children are now more likely to be victims of explosions than their parents (because adults know how to safely avoid or handle bombs). What does it mean to be “born” from a bomb, or born from bombing?
Laos is the most cluster bombed country in the world. In 2010, Laos hosted the signing of the Convention banning cluster munitions. The country and the explosive clearance organizations that work there at the forefront of global efforts to create standards for cluster munition clearance.

You mention Laos is “one of the most rapidly developing countries in the world; it is also the world’s most bombed country . . .” How do military waste “haunt” development projects and the government’s response to the country’s rapid growth?

Zani 2

Fifty-year-old craters used as trash pits. In the background, tables and a parking lot set up for the temple fund-raiser. Photo by the author.

I take up haunting as an attitude to time: the Secret War as haunting, rather than history. At the Sepon Gold Mine, the focus of Chapter Two, the partially state-owned gold mine digs beneath an old communist stronghold bombed during the Secret War, and beneath that into the remains of a 14th century village. These subterranean histories layer on top of each other, sometimes intersecting or puncturing everyday life on the ground above. The first things to be dug up at the Gold Mine were bombs—not gold or copper—and more bombs are found and demolished every day of active operations. During my fieldwork in Sepon, rumors circulated of bombs and war ghosts brought to the surface by the runoff from the mine. And ghosts from the ancient village underneath the mine were possessing mine workers. The gold mine was also a ghost mine—a place where one dug up ghosts or became a ghost oneself.

Back in Vientiane, the Lao capital, I extend this analysis of haunting to explore the relations between state violence and development. My fieldwork was bracketed by the disappearance of Sombath Somphone, an important Lao civil society leader, and the phase-out of one of my primary research hosts. Sombath was abducted from his car in 2012 (on a Vientiane street near my apartment) and has yet to be returned to his family or confirmed dead. I began my preliminary fieldwork just before Sombath was abducted; and when I returned for primary fieldwork I discovered that my research partnerships needed to be renegotiated. One of my research partners rescinded their patronage all together, citing concerns over state violence. My fieldwork ended just as my primary research host was phasing out of Laos, in part due to the challenges of working in an increasingly authoritarian state. In the post-Sombath years, my interlocutors expressed concern that the hardships of working in Laos were caused by Sombath’s ghost. Since Sombath has not been confirmed dead, and his body not found, Sombath’s kin have not be able to perform the proper funerary rituals, thus causing Sombath to become an “angry ghost.” His ghost is haunting Lao development. At the same time, the ambiguity of disappearance (Sombath is alive/dead) points to another possible world of forgiveness and cooperation. Political disappearance creates an awareness of multiple worlds layering within the everyday. In the book’s logic of parallels, this contemporary state violence forms a parallel with the ongoing violence from the Secret War.

In your book, you talk about doing research in what is considered a dangerous environment. What were some of the hazards you encountered while doing your fieldwork?

I went into this research assuming explosives would be the greatest risks to my safety. My Institutional Review Board protocols included procedures for conducting fieldwork in uncleared battlefields and at explosives clearance sites. I soon discovered that state terror, surveillance, and harassment were far greater threats: that being an American woman in an authoritarian state was a greater risk factor than being in the middle of an old air strike zone. I joked to my friends: “The men are more dangerous than the bombs!” I was unprepared for the levels of surveillance and harassment that I was experiencing. In hindsight, I realized that my lack of preparedness was evidence for the public secrecy of state violence: there was no way I could have predicted many of these challenges in advance of doing fieldwork. We must negotiate our research ethics in the field. I also think that my unpreparedness points to a larger, shared issue in field-based sciences around the unequal risks faced by female researchers. As a discipline, we are impoverished in our theories and methods for risk: How I wish that the #metoo anthropology movement had begun before I started my fieldwork! I hope that this book contributes to that larger, disciplinary discussion of research risks and subject/researcher protections.

I approached these challenges as an ethical and methodological provocation to practice fieldwork differently, including my development of a hazardous research methods toolkit. I used the word “hazard” to counter the over-determining language of danger in explosives clearance. I wanted a word that would organically encompass military waste, state terror, and everyday risks like harassment and unsafe water. Ethnographic fieldwork is often a balance between intimacy and danger. The tension is written into our basic method: participant-observation, to participate without losing the distance that is essential to scholarship. Fieldwork in explosives clearance zones materializes the risks of ethnographic intimacy: areas of safety and danger are marked on the ground with stakes and red tape. Get too close, and the bomb with destroy you and itself! I learned to walk the perimeter of explosions, looking inward from a safe distance. My practical development of hazardous research methods eventually dovetailed with my theorizing of parallelism: I began to see how hazards layer on top of each other in postwar zones, amplifying risks without necessarily intersecting or being causally related.

What do you hope readers will take away from Bomb Children?

My goal in writing this book is to increase our collective ability to think about war, particularly covert air war, as a lived human experience. Postwar zones deserve more robust area and cultural studies. Military waste as area studies has only been possible since the 1990s when the widespread use of these weapons, the opening of many Cold War battlefields, and the development of humanitarian explosives clearance made it possible for researchers to study in these zones. Our theories and methods for studying postwar zones are out of step with the realities of the people that we study and our own lives under empire. Many of the theories I put forward are ways of grappling with a world changed by modern warfare’s unprecedented ecological and social impacts. Violence on this scale transforms the very conditions of being, living, and dying. Then, in Laos, half a century passes and new generations are born alongside bomb children, luk labaerd, cluster submunitions. Humanitarian explosives clearance often goes only as deep as a typical Lao plow—a handful of centimeters. More bombs often remain buried deeper, with a thin line of soil separating the farmer from the explosives. How is the violence of war lived in times of peace? How can we lean into the shared challenges of military waste, toxic inheritances that by their nature outlive our politics? Out of respect and accuracy towards the people impacted by these weapons, I offer theories and methods for understanding in parallel both our lives above ground, in all our human richness and possibility, and the brutality of a war buried in the soil just beneath our feet.

Pick up your paperback copy of Bomb Children for 30% off using coupon code E19LZANI on our website.

Farewell to Ann Snitow

Ann Snitow

Credit: Steve Ladner

We were deeply saddened to learn that Ann Snitow passed away on August 10th after battling bladder cancer. Snitow was Associate Professor of Literature and Gender Studies at Lang College, The New School, in New York City. She was the author of The Feminism of Uncertaintypublished by us in 2015.

A longtime activist, Snitow cofounded The Network of East-West Women, No More Nice Girls, and New York Radical Feminists. She wrote for The Village VoiceThe NationThe Women’s Review of BooksDissent, and many other publications, and is coeditor of Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality and The Feminist Memoir Project: Voices from Women’s Liberation.

“Over nearly half a century, Ms. Snitow mobilized feminists, often at her kitchen table in Soho, and chronicled their ebbs and flows in six books and scores of articles in publications including The Village Voice, The Nation and Dissent,” wrote Kit Seelye in the New York Times.

We offer our condolences to Professor Snitow’s colleagues, friends, and family.

 

World Day against Trafficking in Persons

trafficking-logoToday is World Day against Trafficking in Persons, a day to bring awareness to and encourage action against human trafficking. In honor of this international day, we’re featuring some of our recent journal articles (all available free for six months) and books that explore this global issue.

In the Trail of the Ship: Narrating the Archives of Illegal Slavery,” featured in the March 2019 issue of Social Text, delves into the strange, contradictory archives of the illegal transatlantic slave trade that flourished between Angola and Brazil in the mid-nineteenth century. The article’s author, Yuko Miki, follows the documentary trail of notorious slave ship Mary E. Smith, focusing on the list of the ship’s Africans who were “liberated” from captivity, most of whom were already deceased.

m_ddpos_25_4.coverAuthor Elena Shih explores why and how Thailand functions as a pivotal destination for US human-trafficking rescue projects in “Freedom Markets: Consumption and Commerce across Human-Trafficking Rescue in Thailand,” featured in the November 2017 issue of positions: asia critique. Basing her research on the global anti-trafficking movement in Thailand, China, and the United States between 2008 and 2014, Shih juxtaposes two distinct tourist encounters: a human-trafficking reality tour hosted by a US nonprofit organization, and a separate study-abroad gathering of US university students hosted at the office of a Thai sex worker rights organization.

m_ddglq_22_3_coverIn the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the Brazilian government engaged in a militarized campaign to clean up favelas, blighted areas, and red-light districts so that it could “develop” them. In his article “Evangelical Ecstasy Meets Feminist Fury: Sex Trafficking, Moral Panics, and Homonationalism during Global Sporting Events,” featured in the June 2016 issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Gregory Mitchell argues that by destroying safe and legal venues for sex work, host cities of such events create the very exploitation they purport to prevent.

You may also be interested in these books about human trafficking:

Street Corner Secrets

Street Corner Secrets is an ethnography of women in the city of Mumbai who look for  work at nakas, street corners where day laborers congregate and wait to be hired for construction jobs. Often chosen last, after male workers, or not at all, some women turn to sex work in order to make money, at the nakas, on the street, or in brothels. Svati P. Shah argues that sex work should be seen in relation to other structural inequities affecting these women’s lives, such as threats from the police and lack of access to clean water.

Having spent nearly a decade following the lives of formerly trafficked men and women, Denise Brennan recounts in close detail their flight from their abusers and their courageous efforts to rebuild their lives. Life Interrupted is a riveting account of life in and after trafficking and a forceful call for meaningful immigration and labor reform.

Read an Excerpt from Pamela Reynold’s The Uncaring, Intricate World

Uncaring Intricate WorldIn her new book, The Uncaring, Intricate World, anthropologist Pamela Reynolds shares her fieldwork diary from her time spent in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi valley during the 1980s, in which she recounts the difficulties, pleasures, and contradictions of studying the daily lives of the Tonga people three decades after their forced displacement. This edition of her diary was carefully curated by Todd Meyers, Associate Professor of Anthropology at New York University, Shanghai.

“The diary is not inert. It is not a snapshot or a photograph, but recognizes the inherent problem of a photographic subject to hold still,” says Meyers in the foreword. In this excerpt from the first chapter, Reynolds describes her experiences arriving at the site of her fieldwork, including the environment, her interactions with the children, and her first meal.

Read an excerpt from The Uncaring, Intricate World below and then order a copy from our website for 30% off using coupon code E19RYNLD

Chitenge, Mola
SEPTEMBER 1, 1984
5:45 p.m.

It is, I suppose, one of anthropology’s funny scenes. The sun setting, and I in a house that consists only of poles widely spaced, roofless, doorless, so that all I do is exposed to the eyes of twelve children. That which I do amuses them greatly: I am sitting in a director’s chair at a folding table drinking tea, with a weird assortment of goods scattered around on the bare soil.

Anderson and I arrived at 3:30 p.m., having driven 440 kilo meters from Harare and having been on the road since 6:00 a.m. with half an hour in Karoi. The journey was fine— rather like being massaged by t hose ma-chines that are supposed to tone your muscles and slim you down. The road varies from corrugations to potholes to deep sand with combinations of the three. Over the last 200 kilo meters we met only two busses, one van, two trucks, three warthogs, and many kudu.

On arrival and the discovery of only the bare frames of a kitchen and sleeping platform, I expressed some dis plea sure to Samuel, the builder, who is racing the setting sun to build a ladder to the platform of the busanza (my house on stilts) so that I can climb up there to sleep. I was a little scornful of his pro gress on my house after six weeks. A small audi-ence of children listened in fascination. Samuel has since enjoyed getting his own back making the children roar with laughter at my expense. It is a fine scene, with Samuel and his mate, Shadrick, working hard yet enter-taining the children. One boy has a fearfully distended belly; another eats cold sadza and relish beside my doorpost; yet another plays with a little girl who is in his charge.

OK - 5/8/18

Paulina and I (looking bushed) at her homestead. Photo graph by Alexan-der Joe for the book Lwaano Lwanyika, © Pamela Reynolds and Colleen Crawford Cousins, circa 1985.

Now fourteen children stand and watch me. The sun goes down; there is a little light, and the scruffy ends of twine that tie the steps of the ladder are being trimmed. Who won? Not me. Return to laughter!

6:05 p.m.

I made a grand gesture of climbing the finished ladder and allowed more opportunity for laughter. I gave Samuel and his mate an orange each in ad-miration of their effort. It had ended amicably, and I said a firm “Goodnight,” at which every one miraculously dis appeared. I shall now have a whiskey on the platform and read Virginia Woolf ( ought to be Shakespeare).

I need a candle guard. I have bathed in the moonlight. A tub of warm water has been placed for me in a newly made bathing shelter of matting reed set around a plastered floor. Odd how many new skills one must learn— how to take a little water in a mug, how to balance a watch on a pole, how to dress while keeping feet and clothes dry and clean.

I have my whiskey and candle and book and have watched the final sun’s light go and listened to the new night noises: crickets, a child’s cry, men talking, pots banging, little children’s chatter, and my first mosquito’s whine. Difficult to keep the candle alight on my bare platform. Frogs, crickets, do I hear something more threatening? The night is mysterious beyond the circle of my flame. The bus from Harare is passing, almost empty. Ander-son comes and chats for a while. What joy is the peace after the last two frenetic weeks. I have forgotten methylated spirits, pillows, a stretcher, and copies of photo graphs taken on the last trip to hand out. No doubt much else. Oh well.
Anderson’s uncle ( father’s brother) was arrested on the 21st  of last month. The National Parks game guards caught him in the bush and ac-cused him of poaching. He denied it, but after some interrogation he ad-mitted to having been seen with wire. He is the head of Anderson’s section of Chitenge. He is awaiting trial in Kariba, and as fines have been stopped, he is likely to spend six months in jail.

Anderson told me that the young man with the wonderful crafted bas-ket of fish that he was carry ing from Musamba to a market in Harare, to whom we gave a lift from Musamba to Bumi in July, has been killed. An ex- girlfriend who was living at Groebler’s crocodile farm knifed him. She, too, had been a fish trader but had recently been living with a worker at the camp. She now awaits trial in Kariba and leaves behind three young children.

Anderson’s eldest son fetched me for supper of meat that I had brought from Karoi and sadza. I joined a delightful domestic scene with Anderson chatting animatedly with his wives and little Cosimos being small, vocif-erous, and tired. He would only eat meat and went off to bed saying, “I will not sleep on the mat as a rat will eat me. I shall sleep in your bed” (to his mother and father). The adults laughed.

As we finished eating, a Land Rover approached with one light. I thought, “Ah, that is Bernard” (for I knew that he was passing through Chitenge that day), and I went out to the road. And sure enough it was Bernard Whaley, a friend from my school days. He was with the people undertaking a canoe safari being filmed by a French crew. They were passing en route to Bumi, having canoed some distance down the Zambezi River from Victoria Falls. I appeared to be an apparition as I stepped into their headlights as they ap-proached the end of a long journey through the bush.

Now to sleep to the sound of drums. My house does look peculiar. A pristine white net hangs from a pole across the roofless top; my clothes are carefully arranged on hangers from the same pole; a white bag full of tape recorders, etc., hangs beside my black handbag from a branch of the pole. My large straw hat sits like a moth against the curve. The wind plays with the mosquito net and extinguishes my candle.

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month Reads

In honor of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month or Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are featuring some of our recent books and journals that explore Asian American and Pacific Islander studies.

racial melancholiaDavid L. Eng and Shinhee Han draws on psychoanalytic case histories from the mid-1990s to the present to explore how first- and second-generation Asian American young adults deal with difficulties such as depression, suicide, and coming out within the larger social context of race, immigration, and sexuality in Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation.

Also looking at the lives of young Asian Americans,  Straight A’s, edited by Christine R. Yano, Neal K. Adolph Akatsuka, features personal narratives of undergraduate students at Harvard University in which they reflect on their shared experiences with discrimination, stereotypes, immigrant communities, their relationship to their Asian heritage, and the difficulties that come with being expected to reach high levels of achievement.

In Paradoxes of Hawaiian SovereigntyJ. Kēhaulani Kauanui examines contradictions of indigeneity and self-determination in U.S. domestic policy and international law, showing how Hawaiian elites’ approaches to reforming land, gender, and sexual regulation in the early nineteenth century that paved the way for sovereign recognition of the kingdom complicate contemporary nationalist activism, which too often includes disavowing the indigeneity of indigenous Hawaiians.

Dean Itsuji Saranillio’s Unsustainable Empire offers a bold challenge to conventional understandings of Hawai‘i’s admission as a U.S. state. Saranillio shows that statehood was neither the expansion of U.S. democracy nor a strong nation swallowing a weak and feeble island nation, but the result of a U.S. nation whose economy was unsustainable without enacting a more aggressive policy of imperialism. With clarity and persuasive force about historically and ethically complex issues, Unsustainable Empire provides a more complicated understanding of Hawai‘i’s admission as the fiftieth state and why Native Hawaiian place-based alternatives to U.S. empire are urgently needed.

postcolonial griefIn Postcolonial Grief, Jinah Kim explores Asian and Asian American texts from 1945 to the present that mourn the loss of those killed by U.S. empire building and militarism in the Pacific, showing how the refusal to heal from imperial violence may help generate a transformative antiracist and decolonial politics.

In Migrant Futures, Aimee Bahng traces the cultural production of futurity by juxtaposing the practices of speculative finance against those of speculative fiction, showing how speculative novels, films, and narratives create alternative futures that envision the potential for new political economies, social structures, and subjectivities that exceed the framework of capitalism.

worldmakingDorinne Kondo draws on critical ethnographic work and over twenty years of experience as a dramaturge and playwright to theorize how racialized labor, aesthetics, affect, genre, and social inequity operate in contemporary theater in Worldmaking.

Jan M. Padios examines the massive call center industry in the Philippines in the context of globalization, race, gender, transnationalism, and postcolonialism in A Nation on the Line. She outlines how it has become a significant site of efforts to redefine Filipino identity and culture, the Philippine nation-state, and the value of Filipino labor.

Migrant Returns  by Eric J. Pido also takes a transnational look at the Filipino experience. His award-winning book examines the complicated relationship between the Philippine economy, Manila’s urban development, and Filipino migrants visiting or returning to their homeland, showing migration to be a multidirectional, layered, and continuous process with varied and often fraught outcomes.

Poem of the Week

Of Gardens and GravesDuring National Poetry Month, we are offering a poem each Monday. In celebration of Earth Day, today’s poem describes the beauty of the earth and questions the reasons people do not learn from the nature blossoming and roaming in peace around them. This poem is from Suvir Kaul’s Of Gardens and Graves: Kashmir, Poetry, Politics. David Ludden, Professor of History, New York University, says “Reading Of Gardens and Graves is a treat beyond description. I have visited Kashmir several times during the period this book covers, and while reading it I felt magically transported into the invisible heart and soul of a world where much of what Suvir Kaul described had been only vaguely visible to me before. The work he has done here is brave and powerful.”

 

Moti Lal “Saqi”
Question

He too is a man
You too are a man
I too am a man

No one sprung up from rock, no one dropped from the sky
No one climbed up from the underworld either
All are as clay, are born to mothers
Then who amongst us is separate, who torn apart by distance
Let’s then think consciously all of us—

I seem to have burst the kernels of my thought
Flowers many-colored, the garden bloomed Velvet, blue, red, golden
No one needed to slit the poppy

The rose did not become arrogant about its perfume
The pomegranate did not shame the marigold
The pussy willow did not boast though it blossomed first
The narcissus comes, who will drag it down
The iris has no fear of walking alone
The saffron flower never spoke its value
The violet knows no enemy in the lily
The shy thaniwal grew, back-tracked, and eased away
How sweet their little world
Peaceful world, there is no quarrel

Flocks of sheep run up the hillside
Crystal-colored how many, how many cream
How many white, blackish how many
Wandering in valleys, bounding about

All together they go out to graze
All together they slake their thirst
No harm comes to the underfed ram
The creamy one will not squeeze the black’s neck
The crystal does not frighten the mottled one

Then just ask a question of yourselves
Why do we humans have bad thoughts?

Suvir Kaul is A. M. Rosenthal Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and the author, most recently, of Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Postcolonial Studies.
Our other highlighted poems can be read here.

Poem of the Week

Bomb ChildrenIt’s currently National Poetry Month, so we are offering a poem each Monday throughout April. Today’s poem is from Leah Zani’s forthcoming book, Bomb Children. Joshua O. Reno, author of Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill says “Bomb Children is nothing short of breathtaking. Leah Zani presents little-known and incredibly important material on the everyday aftermath of the Secret War for the people of Laos. Her topic is not only ethnographically underexplored, but has been deliberately concealed by the U.S. government for decades. In Zani’s hands, fieldwork becomes a flexible toolkit, selectively and strategically deployed to grasp the object of military wasting in a revealing and ethically responsible way.”

zani-bom-children-poem-e1555094843537.png

Leah Zani is a Junior Fellow in the Social Science Research Network at University of California, Irvine. Bomb Children will be published in August.

Our other highlighted poems can be read here.

Q&A with Gökçe Günel, Author of Spaceship in the Desert

GOKCE_PORTREGökçe Günel is Assistant Professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona and the author of the new book Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi. In Spaceship in the Desert, Günel examines the development and construction of Masdar City, a zero-carbon city built by Abu Dhabi that houses a research institute for renewable energy which implemented a series of green technologies and infrastructures as a way to deal with climate change and prepare for a post-oil future.

How did this project start? What brought you to the Spaceship in the Desert?

I visited the United Arab Emirates for the first time in 2008, hoping to learn more about the planned city projects burgeoning in the region. But after the economic crisis of 2008, many of these projects were on the verge of collapse. Masdar City was an exception in that it continued to exist beyond the economic crisis. In addition to offering insights about large-scale real estate development projects, this zero-carbon city proposed innovative ways of imagining energy and climate futures. To gain access to the project, I contacted faculty members at Masdar Institute— the energy-focused research center that was set up inside Masdar City by MIT’s Technology and Development Program. Between January 2010 and June 2011, I conducted most of the fieldwork for Spaceship in the Desert, focusing on the design and construction of Masdar City, while interrogating how oil-rich economies, like the UAE, prepare for a time with less oil.

What is Masdar City and what are the “technical adjustments” that it and similar projects generate?

Masdar (meaning “source” in Arabic) is a multifaceted renewable energy and clean technology company sponsored by the Abu Dhabi government. It is most widely known for Masdar City, a futuristic eco-city that was designed by the London-based architecture office Foster + Partners to rely entirely on renewable energies. According to initial plans, Masdar City would house fifty thousand residents and forty thousand commuters on a 600-hectare area. Masdar Institute, the energy-focused research center that was set up and supervised by MIT’s Technology and Development Program, started offering graduate degrees inside the eco-city in September 2010.

However, the Masdar City master plan was soon cancelled, along with many other innovative projects taking place on the Masdar City grounds. Today Masdar City is more or less a special economic zone for renewable energy and clean technology companies.

While the eco-city was central to Masdar’s development, Masdar also invested in renewable energy through its other operations—Masdar Power, Masdar Carbon, and Masdar Capital—in an attempt to ensure Abu Dhabi will remain a significant player in the energy industry, well after its oil reserves run dry.

In the book, I propose the idea of “technical adjustments” as a way of thinking more holistically about the business models, design solutions and technological fixes, which address climate change and energy scarcity. Broadly speaking, I understand technical adjustments as imaginative and wide-ranging responses to global climate change and energy scarcity, which open up certain interventions (such as extending technological complexity) while foreclosing others (such as asking larger-scale moral, ethical, and political questions regarding how to live). While producing innovative and at times fun artifacts, technical adjustments obfuscate the simple realization that humans cannot continue to live and consume as they do.

The adjustments I observed at Masdar City involved market-oriented technical fixes—such as green buildings, research into renewable energy and clean technology, novel ways of imagining exchange, innovative designs for vehicles, and new global governance mechanisms—that promote a belief in the possibility of sustaining the status quo and even improving life for certain segments of society. The book’s chapters look into these projects in detail.

Yet it is important to keep in mind that these strategies are not unique to Masdar City – we see them all over the world. Electric cars, biodegradable plastic bags, and energy-efficient light bulbs provide the piecemeal means through which humans seek to extend their lifestyles into the future while tackling climate change and preserving the status quo. These adjustments guide living arrangements and shape social possibilities in technocratic, typically anthropocentric, ways, along lines drawn by affluent nations. The future becomes a thinly veiled version of the present.

You have focused several of your chapters around metaphors and metonymy that people at Masdar used to describe Masdar City: “a technocratic dictatorship,” “an expensive toy,” and “spaceship and the desert.” What do these concepts mean in your work and how did “spaceship in the desert” become the metaphor that represents your project as a whole?

Metaphors help people see things in new ways. By tracing the kinds of metaphors people used to describe Masdar, I was able to observe how the producers of Masdar made sense of their worlds. What were some of the qualities they noticed about the project, but did not explicitly put into words? Some of these descriptions were forms of criticism directed towards the project (such as “technocratic dictatorship” and “expensive toy”), while others (such as “spaceship in the desert”) perhaps constituted praise.

Spaceship in the Desert became the overarching metaphor for the book, because it encapsulates many aspects of Masdar City, and many aspects of climate change mitigation today. As I say in the book, the spaceship signifies enclosure, archiving, selection, hierarchy, movement, and—most importantly—the maintenance of strict boundaries between interior and exterior spaces. It promotes a technocratic and exclusive universalism, a kind of Noah’s ark that will help save a select few, and produces the outside as a vacuum that should not be inhabited. In this context, the desert becomes the ultimate empty space upon which new ideas can be imposed (though as we all know it is not empty). Many colonialist and settler colonialist projects have framed the desert as this blank or ruined space, which can be fixed with the help of technology and proper governance. And if you think about space movies, you will see that many of them employ desert terrains. Just yesterday, I was reading about how in the movie Star Wars: Episode IV— A New Hope, the Tunisian desert doubled as the landscape of a distant planet called Tatooine. In such spacefaring movies, characters often plot out scenarios that prioritize enclosure for some over collective survival. In this imagination of the future, what happens to those who are left outside the spaceship? By unpacking the metaphor of a spaceship in the desert, I show what kinds of perceptions this praise inheres and renders invisible. Broadly speaking, by thinking through the idea of spaceship in the desert, I’m trying to interrogate why, how and if humans have abandoned the possibility of collective survival at a time of climate change and energy scarcity.

978-1-4780-0091-4

Spaceship in the Desert contains many interesting moments of irony and contradiction. For example, in your introduction you mention that this book project on renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures is in large part built on ethnographic research conducted inside SUVs driving the highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. What is your favorite contradiction that emerged in the course of researching or writing this book?

When the Masdar City project was publicized, many thought it was ironic that an oil-rich state was venturing into renewable energy and clean technology initiatives. But for decision-makers in Abu Dhabi, this made sense. They were embedded in energy sector networks; all they had to do was to retool these networks to employ them for these new purposes. It wasn’t necessarily paradoxical. I’m sharing this, mainly because it was the original irony of the project, but for people in Abu Dhabi, it wasn’t a contradiction. I think this realization alone made me understand how renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures were ways of maintaining the status quo, especially for those who imagined the status quo as a best-case scenario. For some people, today is a utopia, which needs to be stretched further into the future with the help of technical adjustments.

You describe a focus on the future, rather than the present, in the technology, strategies, and appearance of Masdar City. What were the consequences of this focus for Masdar City?

Many of the people I met at Masdar City enjoyed contextualizing their projects in multiple scales at once – say, the immediate space of Masdar City in conjunction with the space of the planet or the universe. They went back and forth between these scales, and this spatial imagination also had temporal equivalents. They could talk about the future, which comprised an undefined stretch of time, the same way they talked about the universe.

But it wasn’t only the people at Masdar City who had this fascination with the future. Renewable energy and clean technology companies everywhere share this disposition. In one part of the book, I discuss how renewable energy and clean technology companies embody a messianic promise, seeking to liberate humanity from its guilt-ridden consciousness of the twentieth century. Perhaps the twentieth century was a time of decadent pleasures, but the future would be characterized by responsible consumption of resources (under the tutelage of these companies).

In this framework, the present mattered for its perpetual potential, prompting renewable energy and clean technology companies to refer to the abstract planetary-scale transformations they could one day trigger and implement. In the book, I explore how people at Masdar City experienced this potential. How exactly do people feel potential, and feel that they can rely and act upon technical adjustments to confront climate change and energy scarcity? How is potential negotiated, realized, limited, or changed? I demonstrate that switching scales and talking about the universe and the future are methods for ensuring such potentiality.

Did your views on climate change, and the strategies for addressing it, shift in the course of completing Spaceship in the Desert? In what way?

Yes, definitely. The project showed me how climate change requires humans to go beyond piecemeal solutions, such as the technical adjustments of Masdar City. These piecemeal solutions are crafted with the goal of ensuring economic growth. Given current climate change scenarios, we need to reevaluate these expectations, and imagine a future that does not prioritize growth. Humans need to drastically reduce their production and consumption, and think about altering the status quo, not preserving it.

What future do you see for renewable energy and green living projects based on your research? What lessons or reflections do you hope readers will draw from Spaceship in the Desert?

In some ways, I would like readers to have a sense of the wide-range of innovations that respond to energy scarcity and global climate change, such as building an eco-city, replacing national currencies with energy-based currencies, or implementing personal rapid transit. It is great to see so many smart people working on significant environmental issues, especially in a context that is not known for breakthroughs in science and technology. But at the same time, I would like readers to be aware that while these innovations are important, they are not necessarily solutions for the climate crisis. The only way human can mitigate that problem is by rethinking the main tenets of capitalism.

Pick up your paperback copy of Spaceship in the Desert for 30% off using coupon code E19GUNEL on our website.