Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Materiality
Secondary Theme: Resilience
The papers in this panel consider relationships between material and narrative or discursive constructions of space, place, and the built environment, especially as they concern the framing of social and political relations occurring within those contexts. Following recent anthropological work on infrastructure, architecture, space, and place, we direct attention to the ways that the material effects of time, as well as evocations of temporality, participate in this framing. What aspects of the material surround are enlisted, for example, through practices and discourses meant to replicate (and anticipate) a “normal” household in a Japanese orphanage? Conversely, how might discursive or material absences (or invisibility) in certain medical contexts contribute to shaping public health practices (both preventive and reactive) and perceptions of HIV/AIDS? Our panel also considers spaces and built forms in which sometimes jarring material and temporal discontinuities sit uncomfortably alongside one another, or whose seemingly stable coherence is made plural through contradictory narratives of history or religious heritage. In these situations, what authority or expertise is called upon to legitimate a claim or negotiate consensus? In certain professional contexts such as architecture and design history, the materiality of drawings, built structures, and scale models evince both an engagement with the past (in the form of precedents) and the future – wherein the relative stability or resiliency of present materials may permit speculation or hope for future structures and the social networks and interactions they enable. How might ethnographic and ethno-methodological explorations of these topics illustrate the extent to which material-semiotic associations lay at the center of perceptions of and reactions to transformation (social, material, political, cultural) or loss, durability (or resilience?) and permanence? In attending to the processual and iterative dimensions of how people struggle with, respond to, or strive for change with regard to their material environment and its interpretation, anthropologists are uniquely positioned to recognize and call attention to incipient forms of association, sociability, and aspirations for our collective future.