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Live Event: Could you be arrested for planting flowers in your street?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 3:29pm in


nature, culture

What guerrilla gardening reveals about our relationship with urban nature and culture. Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.

Dr Elizabeth Ewart, Head of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford joins JC Niala, one of her doctoral students to discuss human relationships to nature in cities. Dr Ewart has an interest in the anthropology of everyday practices such as gardening. JC Niala's doctoral research focuses on urban gardeners in Oxford and she is interested in the what their everyday practice reveals about the way we live.Working with the case study of guerrilla gardeners who operate in cities such as London and Oxford they will explore the interactions between different types of gardeners that challenge commonly held assumptions about nature and culture.

JC Niala
JC is a doctoral researcher with an interest in how people’s imaginations of nature, affects the environment. With a focus on urban practice, she has worked on food sovereignty projects in Kenya . JC has used verbatim theatre as a tool for community engagement with both adaptation and mitigation strategies for dealing with climate change. JC's current ecological project 'Plant an orchestra' brings together her love of music and trees.

Elizabeth Ewart
Elizabeth Ewart is Associate Professor in the anthropology of Lowland South America. Her research is with indigenous people in Central Brazil where she has lived and worked with Panará people. She is interested in the material and visual aspects of Amerindian lived worlds, including body adornment, beadwork, garden design and village layout and is also interested in the anthropology of everyday practices, such as child rearing and gardening.

More recently, she has been developing research in southwestern Ethiopia (together with Dr Wolde Tadesse), on local agriculture and food production, specifically in relation to a local staple, enset (Ensete ventricosum or Abyssinian banana), exploring the manifold connections between cultivation, cooking, animal husbandry, land custodianship and sense of wellbeing among Gamo communities in the southern Ethiopian highlands.

Pandemic as symptom: COVID-19 and human-animal relations under capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 6:00am in


Blog, nature

Zoonotic disease pandemics such as COVID-19 present us with an opportunity to reframe how we understand capitalism by visibilising the role animals are forced to play in its processes, and the forms and spaces of human-animal contact that are dominant in our world. The production process and the reproduction of capitalist social relations and human bodies depends on captured and domesticated animals’ lives, bodies and deaths, just as it necessarily leads to the expulsion and mass death of ‘wild’ animals.

My Honours research centres on reading human-animal relations under capitalism through notions of disease and cure. It uses zoonotic disease as a central metaphor for the instability of the human-animal dichotomy, the inseparability of humans from ‘nature’ including at the micro-level of ecology, and the persistent vulnerability of human bodies. My purpose is to bring other animals to the fore of how we understand capitalism, against the general tendency to present the global capitalist political economy as an autonomous system of human interactions.

While analysing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our political economy and the way governments around the world have responded to and sought to manage the crisis is important, it is also important to turn our minds back to how it and many other zoonotic disease pandemics and epidemics (and even epizootics) started.

3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and tend to be traced to two key sources: the production of space through deforestation and the enclosed spaces of animal exploitation, from the cattle farms of England to the meat markets of Wuhan. Many clusters of SARS-CoV-2 infection have been found in meat processing facilities. The conditions therein precipitate disease amongst human workers, as we have seen even with the Melbourne clusters of Covid-19 at Cedar Meats, Somerville Meats and JBS Meats. The situation is even more dire for the animals they are paid very little to discipline and dismember whose wide range of sicknesses are considered primarily in economic terms.

The treatment of livestock with medicine reveals the unique position of other animals in the production process, occupying a space between capital and labour. As ‘capital’, dosing dairy cows with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories is akin to doing maintenance on machines used in the production process; as living beings whose physical reproduction is central to the profitability of capital, they are akin to ‘labour’.

While disease and death are inevitable, their prevalence and the forms they come in are driven by social and political factors. This is the case from livestock epizootics, to global pandemics to local extinctions. In India, for instance, vulture populations have been decimated by diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug given primarily to dairy cows in order to keep them living longer and producing more milk.

Vultures have historically been a crucial part of urban ecology in India. As scavengers, vultures survive off human and other animal carrion, using their high levels of pathogen resistance to increase the sanitation of their environment while reproducing their own lives.

The vultures’ remarkable transformation of death into life through their bodies’ gradually evolved resistance to disease stands diametrically opposed to the pharmaceutical industry’s transformation of life into death. Sustaining livestock through medicine is aimed at realising optimal value in their deaths, and is driving the vulture population to extinction.

With 97% of the populations of India’s three vulture species decimated, vulture conservation and breeding is on the rise as zoologists attempt to manage the excesses of capitalist speciesism. In these conservation areas and breeding centres, vultures are free from the threat of mass death but are nevertheless rendered subjects of anthropocentric biopolitical regimes which take individuals of other animal species as examples of a generic form; replaceable.

When humans meet other species, it is more often than not at the latter’s expense.

The COVID-19 pandemic should have brought to the forefront of our minds the kinds of human-animal relations and encounters of life and death which shape our world. As a crisis of mass death traced back to the enclosure, exploitation and dismemberment of other animal bodies it shares much in common with the vulture extinction crisis.

Even the generic anonymity of individual animals viewed through an anthropocentric lens is an experience that humans come close to once they die in a form of mass death like a pandemic, where biosecurity regimes become involved in the disposal of their bodies in mass graves, and their passing away is represented by alienating statistics.

In a multispecies world we must come to think of disease and cure along less anthropocentric lines to fully comprehend the effects capitalist societies have on the animals they encroach upon, expel and create, and the effect this has on forms of human life in a class society.

Vultures go extinct as cattle are bred to die. Koalas become infertile and come closer to extinction due to chlamydia originating in livestock. Wildlife are traded and killed and eventually a worldwide pandemic infections over 15 million people in 7 months, with the working class, unemployed, disabled and elderly at the greatest risk. Farmed animal lives become a form of ‘oversupply’ in the midst of the ensuing economic slowdown, and are exterminated en masse.

Abolishing the speciesist relations of capitalism that exist between humans and animals is the preventive medicine that is needed to avoid these crises.

The post Pandemic as symptom: COVID-19 and human-animal relations under capitalism appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/05/2015 - 6:43pm in

An interdisciplinary discussion of Jamie Lorimer's book Jamie Lorimer (Associate Professor in Human Geography, University of Oxford) discusses his book with William Beinart (Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, University of Oxford), Daniel Grimley (Professor of Music, University of Oxford) and Nikolaj Lübecker (Associate Professor of French, University of Oxford).

In Wildlife in the Anthropocene, Jamie Lorimer argues that the idea of nature as a pure and timeless place characterized by the absence of humans has come to an end. Offering a thorough appraisal of the Anthropocene—an era in which human actions affect and influence all life and all systems on our planet—Lorimer unpacks its implications for changing definitions of nature and the politics of wildlife conservation.