Delta Temporalities: Choked and Tangled Futures in the Bengal Delta

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Dr. Jason Cons
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin

Date: Friday, October 26, 2018
Time: 12:00PM – 2:00PM
Venue: AP246, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Abstract: This talk offers an ethnographic engagement with the present and futures of Bangladesh’s southwest delta. The southwest—which houses the Sundarbans, the world’s largest remaining mangrove forest—is at once profoundly vulnerable to climate change and a site critical to Bangladesh’s economic development. It figures thus both as a space of optimistic industrial growth and planetary threat. I explore what I call delta temporalities—the dissonant and possibly incommensurate imaginations of the future, and more importantly the projects seeking to bring them about, that proliferate in and shape the delta’s fragile ecology in the present. Tracing tensions between conservation initiatives, dredging projects that attempt to keep rivers flowing for shipping and transportation, and new industrial and energy infrastructure projects, this talk reveals how and why the southwest—and deltas more broadly—have become key chokepoints of the Anthropocene, zones where the future itself becomes blocked and the present imperiled.

Speaker: Dr. Jason Cons works on borders in South Asia, climate and agrarian change, and rural development. He has conducted extensive research in Bangladesh on a range of issues including: climate security, disputed territory along the India-Bangladesh border, the impacts of shrimp aquaculture in coastal areas, the politics of development, and recipient experiences with microcredit. His current research is situated in the Sundarbans region and explores the ways that imaginations of the impacts of future climate change are shaping the delta and the India-Bangladesh border in the present. His first book, Sensitive Space: Anxious Territory at the India-Bangladesh Border, was published by the University of Washington Press in 2016. His work has appeared in Cultural Anthropology, Political Geography, Modern Asian Studies, Ethnography, SAMAJ, Antipode, Third-World Quarterly, and The Journal of Peasant Studies. He is also an associate editor of the journal South Asia. He is the editor, with Michael Eilenberg, of a volume titled Frontier Assemblages: The Emergent Politics of Resource Frontiers in Asia for Wiley’s Antipode Book Series and is co-editing a special issue if Limn on “chokepoints.”

 

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State Highway 31: A road trip through the heart of modern India

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Edward Simpson
Professor of Social Anthropology & Director, SOAS South Asia Institute
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Date: Friday, October 5, 2018
Time: 12:30PM – 2:30PM
Venue: AP246, Department of Anthropology, 19 Russel St.

 

Abstract: This talk follows the route of State Highway 31 through western Madhya Pradesh, central India. The research was part of a larger project looking at the ideas behind the production of infrastructure in South Asia. This journey takes us through landscapes of sex work and opium, some of the oldest nationalist networks in the country, and along the fault-lines of long-running tensions between local communities. The road was one of a series built as a public private partnership and, as such, speaks of the reconfiguration of state relations with private capital and business. Toll booths become places of company ethos, education and for the creation of new kinds of citizens. The nexus of government and private enterprise takes us on a dizzying journey through the world’s tax havens and onto the decks of luxury yachts. Exploring the broader political economy of the road and the organisation of institutions and travellers that sustain it encourages questions about the nature of governance and power in the country.

Bio: Edward Simpson is a Social Anthropologist and Director of the South Asia Institute at SOAS University of London. He is currently interested in the relationship between infrastructure, automobility and the global-sustainability agenda. From previous research he wrote: The political biography of an earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat India (Hurst 2013). He is the Principal Investigator on a five-year project funded by the European Research Council looking at infrastructure across South Asia. This work is being undertaken in partnership with the Mumbai-based artists CAMP.

 

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Co-sponsored by the Development Seminar, and the Center for South Asian studies in the Asia Institute at the University of Toronto

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Cooking Data: Culture and Politics in an African Research World

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Dr. Crystal Biruk
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Oberlin College and Conservatory

Date: Friday, March 1, 2018
Time: 12:00PM – 2:00PM
Venue: Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
Abstract: This talk is based on the author’s ethnography of the production of quantitative data by survey projects  in Africa. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Malawi with demographic  projects in sites ranging from questionnaire design meetings, trainings  for data collectors, fieldworker-led data collection in the field, and  policy venues, this talk presents a fine-grained analysis of  data’s handling by diverse actors to critically examine the criteria and metrics that help numbers in the era of global health attain their legitimacy.
Bio: Dr. Crystal Biruk’s research centers on the ethics and politics of intervention in the global South. Dr. Biruk takes interest in how the growing presence of humanitarian, development, and scientific projects in sub-Saharan Africa reconfigures local social geographies, producing new kinds of status, mobility, expertise, and exclusions.
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The Planetary Test : Design, Computation, and the Management of Uncertainty

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Dr. Orit Halpern

Associate Professor, Concordia University

Date: Friday, September 28, 2018
Time: 12:00PM – 2:00PM
Venue: 728 BL, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Abstract: In 1943, in the midst of the war, the famous architect Richard Neutra was commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico to build hospitals and schools. In response, he produced a number of prototypes and processes investigating different ways to ventilate and climate control buildings in the sub-tropical environment of the island. His prime concern was to improve social condition with limited capital outlay through attention to the management of climate. Neutra famously labeled his work in Puerto Rico a “Planetary Test”. Neutra’s “planetary test” has now become a global infrastructure of “smart” test-bed zones and infrastructures, a global network of computational infrastructures,  that colonize space and life and manage the future through constant swapping, deriving ,and testing that allow high risk design practices such as real-estate construction in climate change threatened spaces, the design of unsustainable energy infrastructures, and constantly volatile and insecure internet networks. This talk will trace several case study histories of “planetary tests” examining the relationship between smart cities and design, the emergence of ecology and resilience planning, and derivative pricing instruments and the reinsurance industry, focusing on their histories post 1970’s, that arguably define and produce our contemporary networks, smart cities, and computational infrastructures.

Speaker: Dr. Orit Halpern is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice. She is also a co-director of the Speculative Life Research Cluster, alaboratory situated at the intersection of the environmental sciences, architecture and design, and computational media.

 

for more: http://www.orithalpern.net

www.speculativelife.com

www.planetaryfutures.net

 

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Sponsored by the Development Seminar at the University of Toronto

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Development: Business and Soft Power

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Susan Roberts

Professor, University of Kentucky

Date: Thursday, March 29, 2018
Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM
Venue: SS2098, Sidney Smith Hall, University of Toronto

Abstract: This talk will focus on contemporary changes in the US’s foreign assistance for development practices. What does “America First” mean for US foreign aid? Is it the predicted “end of foreign aid as we know it”? (the title of an April 2017 article in Foreign Policy). I will revisit evidence and arguments I made in a 2014 paper in the Annals of the AAG about the rise of an industry of development firms involved in delivering US development assistance through contracts and sub-contracts with USAID.

Speaker: Sue Roberts is Associate Provost for Internationalization at the University of Kentucky where she is also Professor of Geography. In 2006 she was awarded the university’s Sturgill Prize for Graduate advising. Sue is a specialist in economic and political geography, with interests in feminist and critical social theory. She has conducted research on a range of subjects, including offshore finance, international development assistance, globalizing non-governmental organizations, and geopolitics. She has published a co-authored book, two co-edited volumes, and numerous papers. Sue has won research funding from the National Science Foundation for several projects, and has conducted research in Southern Mexico, the Caribbean, Ireland, and Australia.

for more: https://geography.as.uky.edu/users/geg207

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Sponsored by the Development Seminar at the University of Toronto

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Development: Business and Soft Power

Past Events

Sue Roberts
Professor of Geography & Associate Provost for Internationalisation
University of Kentucky

Date: Thursday, March 29, 2018, 12-2pm

Venue: TBD

Abstract: This talk will focus on contemporary changes in the US’s foreign assistance for development practices. What does “America First” mean for US foreign aid? Is it the predicted “end of foreign aid as we know it”? (the title of an April 2017 article in Foreign Policy). I will revisit evidence and arguments I made in a 2014 paper in the Annals of the AAG about the rise of an industry of development firms involved in delivering US development assistance through contracts and sub-contracts with USAID.

Bio: Sue Roberts is Associate Provost for Internationalization at the University of Kentucky where she is also Professor of Geography. Sue is a specialist in economic and political geography, with interests in feminist and critical social theory. She has conducted research on a range of subjects, including offshore finance, international development assistance, globalizing non-governmental organizations, and geopolitics. She has published a co-authored book, two co-edited volumes, and numerous papers. Sue has won research funding from the National Science Foundation for several projects, and has conducted research in Southern Mexico, the Caribbean, Ireland, and Australia. From 2012-2017, she was an editor of the top-ranked journal Progress in Human Geography. Sue has spent periods of time living and working in England, Mexico, Australia and Finland. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Turku, Finland in 2012-2013. And she has been Fulbright Specialist in South Africa, working with colleagues at the University of Western Cape.

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Questions? write to devsem at utoronto dot ca or facebook messenger @utdevsem or twitter handle @utdevsem

Sponsored by the Development Seminar at the University of Toronto

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Carpetbaggers of Kabul and Other American Afghan Entanglements

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Jennifer Fluri
Associate Professor, University of Colorado

Friday, March 9, 2018
12:00PM – 2:00PM
Department of Geography & Planning 
100 St. George Street, Room 5047, Toronto, ON M5S 3G3
Room SSH562

Abstract: This talk draws on Jennifer Fluri and Rachel Lehr’s co-authored book, focused on a critical analysis gender and international development in Afghanistan. In response to the attacks against the United States on 9/11/2001, the US led an international military invasion and occupation, along with extensive aid and development efforts. Gendered geopolitical discourses drew public attention to saving Afghan women from the Taliban and local patriarchy, which manifested into several gendered assistance programs and projects. In this talk, Fluri challenges the “saving women” narrative, by showing how “saving women” became a type of currency exchanged among organizations and how aid/development funds were wasted and assisted in the production of wealth for the few on the backs of the impoverished many.

Bio: Jennifer L. Fluri is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Colorado-Boulder. She is a feminist political geographer examining gender, geopolitics, international aid/development, conflict, and peace building in Afghanistan. She has published over twenty peer reviewed journal articles and in 2017 co-authored a book with Rachel Lehr entitled The Carpetbaggers of Kabul and other American-Afghan Entanglements, UGA Press, and she is one of four co-authors of the 2018 book Feminist Spaces: Gender and Geography in a Global Context, Routledge Press. In Colorado, she also co-leads the Boulder Affordable Housing Research Initiative, a community-based service-research project. For more: https://www.colorado.edu/geography/jennifer-fluri-0

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Sponsored by the Development Seminar at the University of Toronto

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Geographies of bureaucratic labor

Past Events

Friday, January 12, 2018

12:00PM – 2:00PM

Department of Anthropology, AP246
19 Russel St
Toronto, M5S2S2

Abstract: The merger of CIDA and DFAIT, beginning in 2013 in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development and continuing today in the renamed Global Affairs Canada (GAC), has brought personnel, resources, and ideas from the formerly independent CIDA into Canada’s diplomatic and trade apparatus. It has also produced tensions as the longstanding practices and expectations of two different sets of highly skilled but highly bureaucratized workers must be reworked around new departmental mandates, hierarchies, and spaces. I examine this merger by focusing on how the merged department and its personnel conceptualize, organize, and use expertise in the pursuit of development, diplomatic, and trade policy goals. Critical geographic scholarship has recently turned to the more mundane, quotidian, and regularized work of policy professionals in a variety of state spaces, such as foreign ministries and development agencies, as a way of understanding how policies are made and remade, changing relations between structure and agency in the internationalizing state, and how the work of development, diplomacy, and trade gets done. I focus here on the integration of and coordination between development personnel, expertise, and resources with their diplomatic and trade counterparts in GAC, looking especially at three interrelated themes: first, the meaning of expertise in different policy fields; second, the differentially embodied geographies of expertise in day-to-day bureaucratic work; and finally, the difference that workspace makes for this integration, both within the Ottawa region and in Canada’s embassies and other foreign field sites.

Speaker: Dr. Jamey Essex is Associate Professor in the department of political science at University of Windsor. His research concentrates on three broad areas: the political and economic geographies of globalization, focusing on changes in governance and the state; the geopolitics and geoeconomics of development, focusing on official development institutions and aid strategies; and the restructuring of agriculture and food systems at multiple scales, focusing on food security and hunger.

His primary ongoing research centers the geopolitics and geoeconomics of development and foreign aid, focusing on how official development assistance institutions frame and approach issues such as world hunger, food security, national security, and governance, and what their strategic choices mean for institutional structures and relations. Past research has looked especially at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as the international development system more broadly, and has been funded by grants from the University of Windsor and SSHRC. Dr. Essex currently holds a SSHRC Insight Grant to examine the recent amalgamation of CIDA and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and what this means for development, foreign affairs, and trade experts, expertise, and policy within the Canadian state.

For more, visit http://www1.uwindsor.ca/polsci/dr-jamey-essex

Sponsored by the Development Seminar at the University of Toronto

Registration Link: http://anthropology.utoronto.ca/departmental-events/

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Worldliness as Decolonization

Past Events

Friday, November 24, 2017

12:00PM – 2:00PM

Department of Anthropology, AP246
19 Russel St
Toronto, M5S2S2

Abstract: The foundational demand of the new student movement that emerged at South African universities in 2015 is the decolonisation of education and the university. For some this has seemed an anachronistic demand, drawing on an older register of politics from the struggles for independence from colonial rule in the 1940s-60s. Yet the students’ invocation of the term has been an attempt to define not only an ongoing colonial paradigm in curriculum and knowledge production at universities, but also to diagnose a problem in the relationship between university and the social context in which it operates. Conversations about how to respond to this demand have been varied, but one rich seam of conversation has been to interpret decolonisation as a claim on worldliness, on how disciplinary and departmental life can open into a different kind of relationship with students’ lives, with the social contexts in which the university as institution functions, and with anti-hegemonic practice.

Speaker: Kelly Gillespie is Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). She is a political and legal anthropologist with a research focus on criminal justice in South Africa, and is particularly concerned with the ways in which criminal justice has become a vector for the continuation of apartheid relations. She also writes and teaches about urbanism, sexualities, race and the praxis of social justice. She co-founded the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC), an experimental project based in Johannesburg tasked with recrafting the work of critical theory beyond the global north. Dr Gillespie also works beyond the university in popular education projects supporting a range of social justice formations in Southern Africa.

Co-sponsored by the Development Seminar and the Anthropology Colloquium, Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto

Registration Link: http://anthropology.utoronto.ca/departmental-events/

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Neoliberalism’s Commodifications

Past Events

Friday, November 03, 2017

12:00PM – 2:00PM

Department of Anthropology, AP367
19 Russel St
Toronto, M5S2S2

Abstract: The idea that the world is moving towards, or has already arrived at, a condition often referred to as “the commodification of everything” has become a staple of media, activist, and scholarly commentary in the early 21st century. Critical political economists have variously identified the commodification of everything as an empirical condition characteristic of mature capitalism, as a structural tendency inherent to capitalist social relations, and as an neoliberal ideological project. In this talk, I challenge the idea that universal commodification is a neoliberal goal in two ways: by inquiring into what the implications of the existence of markets for everything would be for market relations themselves, and by asking why it is that neoliberal states and international institutions criminalize and pathologize a wide range of markets that have flourished in some non-neoliberal societies. I focus in particular on possible markets in some of the most fundamental elements of human societies, including violence, power, and credentials, and draw on empirical evidence from early modern Europe and contemporary Eastern Asia.

Speaker: Derek Hall is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Balsillie School of International Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University. His research interests include the political economy of food, agriculture, land and the environment in Eastern Asia, and the theory and history of capitalism. He is the author of Land (Polity, 2013) and, with Philip Hirsch and Tania Murray Li, of Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia (NUS Press and University of Hawai’i Press, 2011). In 2009-10 he was an S.V. Ciriacy-Wantrup Research Fellow at the University of California Berkeley.

Co-sponsored by the Development Seminar and the Centre for South East Asian Studies in the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto

Website:
https://utdevsem.wordpress.com/2017/10/25/neoliberalisms-commodifications/

Registration Link: http://anthropology.utoronto.ca/events/devsem-derek-hall/

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