Paris Work Week, The Ethics and Politics of Living and Dying

in Field Notes/Presentations/Video

Talk: Laura Ogden & Émilie Hache, mediated by Florencia Grisanti

Musée de la Chasse, June 4, 2014

Extending Beyond the End’s horizons to yet another corner of the world, anthropologist Laura Ogden took us on an evocative journey through the swamplands of the Florida Everglades, using detailed descriptions of the landscape and local alligator hunting practices as both literal and metaphorical examples of new methods, approaches and questions to be explored within Ensayos.

Ogden opened with a fascinating description of the transformative process whereby alligator hunters almost become their prey- speaking with alligators by emulating their grunts, “thinking like an alligator, smelling like an alligator and covering themselves in alligator”. Though this practice has the ultimate goal of claiming the alligator skin to be fed into a global commodity chain that leads all the way from Florida’s humid swamps to, for example, Paris, it exemplifies the power of trans-species communication and the concomitant loosening of the categories human / non human, which could become central to working with the beavers in Tierra Del Fuego. Such flexible categories and shifting perspectives emulate the mobile and fluid landscape of the swamplands, dominated by red mangroves, orRhizophora mangle. With roots growing rapidly in all directions, interweaving with surrounding plants to form complex networks, the plant acts as a metaphor for the methodological approaches necessary for an extension of the “politics” of political ecology, as a multispecies, generative process, evading clearly defined roots/routes in favor of “networks of reconfiguration and rupture”.

This rhizomatic approach to rethinking the issues in Tierra del Fuego, avoiding an “irresponsible male chauvinistic conception of scientific objectivity” to include the ethics of living and dying, morals and emotions in ecopolitical discourse, was central to the ensuing talk by philosopher Émilie Hache. Is it possible for one species to mourn another species’ disappearance? And if so, thinking beyond the present, who or what may we be mourning in the future within the framework of Ensayos’ work in Tierra Del Fuego? Currently mourning the violence exerted on the island’s ecosystems by an ill-conceived introduction of beavers on the island, yet faced with their eradication as a potential ‘solution’ to the problem, will we soon be mourning further acts of cruelty on a species originally displaced by us?

Describing this notion of ‘eradication’ as a lack of attention or imagination, Hache encourages us to consider alternative models, such as the ‘protected natural spaces’ created in other parts of the world. Echoing Laura Ogden’s emphasis on fluid or rhizomatic thought processes by stressing the importance of approaching situations ‘symmetrically’, Hache spoke of the increasing conflicts between humans and wild coyotes on the outskirts of the sprawling city of Los Angeles, where ‘eradication’ of the species is often stated as the only solution. Hache challenges us to ask who, in this case, is actually the invasive species? Is it in fact humans invading the coyote’s natural habitat by embarking on their “unchecked predatory all-terrain urbanization”? Who has the right to define a species as invasive / native and are there alternative models/ futures to eradication? Is there a space for invention? Can we find proposals for migration or transfer, as a possible apology to the beaver? How can we adapt both our and the beaver’s behavior to allow a peaceful and sustainable cohabitation of humans, ecosystems and the beaver?

Demanding another future and the possibility of a future, which takes into account the beaver’s existence whilst refusing to choose between the preservation of Tierra Del Fuego’s ecosystems and our responsibility to the beaver, Hache suggested Ensayos’ work as both an act of love (to the island and its animals) and a political act (as a public, multispecies endeavor to create a future).

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