The Anthropology Department was honored to invite Dr. Anna Tsing to deliver the annual Clifford Geertz Commemorative Lecture on March 30, 2023. Dr. Tsing is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California Santa Cruz, a Guggenheim Fellow, and Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus University. Professor Rob Nixon, the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Family Professor in the Humanities and Environment, Princeton English Department and High Meadows Environmental Institute, offered generous and incisive commentary. The lecture was a highlight in the Anthropology Department’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Professor Tsing’s talk, titled “Stop Blaming Global Warming: A Pinball Model of Chronic Flooding in Sorong, West Papua,” detailed work in progress on a new project in Sorong, a former petrochemical town whose landscape has been transformed through both haphazard impermeable concrete infrastructures and rampant sand mining – ingredients that make the city a “pinball machine” for slugs of mud and silt that flood and bury the city. The talk insists that while climate change is deeply important, ethnographic attention to multiple scales and trajectories of landscape change – to the forms in which landscapes take shape – are crucial to develop analytical and political resources through which to consider environment and politics today. The talk was followed by a reception and dinner hosted by the Department of Anthropology.
Professor Tsing also met with an enthusiastically engaged group of graduate students for coffee and conversation the following morning. Alex Foster, Kym Chu, Tae Cimarosti, JahAsia Jacobs, Darius Sadighi, and Nikhil Pandhi, PhD students in Anthropology, began the event by reflecting on Professor Tsing’s thinking and its impact on their own questions. A free-flowing and free-wheeling discussion of ethics, method, politics, and writing followed.