Department of Anthropology

Technological practices have been at the heart of modernity and a dominant theme of its critique....

"Material Relations and Anthropology's Aesthetic Turn: Three modes of practice in Lao hydropower development"

Fri, February 27, 2009 | EPS 1.128

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Technological practices have been at the heart of modernity and a dominant theme of its critique. This is true both of material technologies such as machines and of techniques of organizational rationalization. In both cases, shifts especially over the past 25 years have bracketed 'nature' as a category distinct from human reason and action. Instead, ecological and managerial expertise have emphasized the specificity of relations among people and things. In hydropower development, ecological sensitivity has been inextricably tied to performative practices of image management, affective work of organizational motivation, and the ethical dynamics of working with documents and other material forms. Human futures are built into, staked on and in turn obedient to material forms, but this raises specters of technological apprehension. Laos has been an important site for these processes insofar as it has been a proving ground for environmental activism and subsequent industry responses. Heavily influenced by science studies, anthropology's aesthetic turn helps clarify these events, but it is also part of the trend it would describe.

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