We live in a time of catastrophic ecological shifts. The impacts of climate change are accelerating worldwide, but emergency agencies and political bodies are not equipped to anticipate where, when, and how severe the next unnatural disaster will be.
Amid mega-fire seasons, for example, scientists are revising models of fire behavior that were calibrated to a nature that increasingly diverges from known baselines and trends. Emergency responders’ trust in patterns has become an occupational hazard. At these edges of knowledge, Indigenous practitioners offer a different path toward living with fire. In the struggle to maintain responsive capacity in disrupted ecologies, a larger reckoning with runaway climate change as a relational problem-space is in order. Rather than resorting to despair about the world’s end, such labors redirect our attention toward horizons of expectation in which knowledge is still actionable, not obsolete, and where futures are still recoverable, not denied. This horizon work necessitates shifts in expert authority as well as other alignments across political, activist, and Indigenous spheres.
Adriana Petryna is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. In her ethnographic studies in Eastern Europe and the United States, she probes the socio-political natures of science, how populations are enrolled in experimental knowledge-production, and what becomes of citizenship and ethics in that process. She is the author of award-winning books, including Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl and When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for Human Subjects, and is co-editor of Global Pharmaceuticals: Ethics, Markets, Practices and When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health.
The IFK will host a discussion with Adriana Petryna the day after her Eric Wolf Lecture, on November 11, 2021, at 5 p.m. (Reichsratsstraße 17, 6th floor)
Ort: Barocksaal der ÖAW, Dr.-Ignaz-Seipel-Platz 2, 1010 Wien