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“Occupying Nature: Fishing for Meaning in the Asian Carp” Transforming Anthropology 22:1 (April 2014)

This article explores the ecological and social processes by which some species become invasive and considers how the threat of Asian carp occupying river systems throughout the United States is tied to racialized geographies of both human and non-human environments.

Selection from Yousuf Al-Bulushi’s introductory comments to the special issue of Transforming Anthropology, “Spaces and Times of Occupation”:

Sigma Colón forces us to think about the links between the workplace as a site for doing battle and the broader environment. In other parlance, she raises the question of how to tie together the “red” and “green” politics of the labor and environmental movements, respectively. In decentering an all too-often anthropocentric conversation about crisis, Colon asks why the problem of species invasions—in her case, the example of the “Asian” carp occupying the river systems throughout the United States—is tied to specific imaginations of racialized geographies. Just think of the older, but more obvious, case of the purportedly more aggressive “Africanized killer bees” invading the United States from Mexico. And although Colon does not raise the issue directly in her piece, she leaves us with the lingering question about the generalized xenophobia that has emerged in the wake of the anti-austerity struggles in Europe and the inability of the Occupy Wall Street movement to forge lasting ties with the prior immigrants rights movement in the United States (an important part of the pre-2011 genealogy of the American Left that Hannon traces for us).


Environment in Debt,” Social Text Periscope: Going Into Debt (September 2011) with responses by David Graeber and Richard Dienst.

This article examines the political economy of nature by looking at environmental degradation and reparations for that destruction as liabilities and as forms of indebtedness within the context of the Global North-South divide.

Selection from David Graeber’s Comments on the Social Text Debt Dossier:

Sigma Colón’s essay on environmental debt poses the most troubling paradox of all. It is perhaps the ultimate example of the moral perils of the need to adopt the enemy’s language. The planet is being destroyed. Does one really have a choice but to use all weapons at one’s disposal? Yet in order to frame the matter in the financial language that those destroying it are capable of understanding, that makes moral sense to them–even if only to begin a process of subtly transforming the very meaning of that language–one has to begin by pretending that they–that human beings in general–are not ourselves part of the planet and its ecosystems. Since how could we enter into commercial relations, calculate debts and credits, with Everything (an Everything that includes ourselves.)

Selection from Richard Dienst’s Comments on the Social Text Debt Dossier:

A second approach can be seen in the essays by Sigma Colón and Monica Muñoz Martinez, where the concept is debt is being asked to do new things. I read these arguments as a kind of thought experiment: what happens when we try to think about environmental destruction and state violence within the narrow framework of debts? In both cases, we want to see what happens when something that is ordinarily thought to stand outside the domain of economic calculation–“nature” and “justice”–is submitted to its logic. Sooner or later, we run up against a limit: there is no way that the real costs of resource extraction or state crime can be reckoned by the system. The point of the experiment is to not to wish that economic calculation could be tweaked to accommodate such considerations, but instead to take the next step and refuse to accept the various forms of remuneration and indemnity on offer as just so many ruses to preserve the authority of money as the ultimate measure of value.

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