Culture, Power, Degrowth
Call for papers for a proposed invited session at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association in Denver, November 18-22, 2015.
Send proposals to co-organizers: Susan Paulson firstname.lastname@example.org and Lisa Gezon email@example.com by March 25th.
A recent explosion of thought and experimentation seeking paths toward new kinds of societies has launched the idea of degrowth into global politics and media. The provocative term has instigated debate within green parties
and in national elections, been activated in anti-globalization and occupy movements, embraced by Via Campesina and the People’s Summit on Climate Change, and exercised in a wide spectrum of localized movements. Following
decades of thought and writing centered mainly in Europe, the concept has recently erupted in English-language scholarship, headlining over 100 articles and numerous books.
Yet, curiously, a search for the word “degrowth” in programs for the last six AAA Annual Meetings found 0 matches. At the 2015 AAA meetings we propose to instigate an anthropological conversation with the provisional
title *Culture, Power, Degrowth. *The panel will bring together critiques of and contributions to efforts to radically rethink predominant socio-ecological systems as well as diverse social movements striving to build new ways of producing and reproducing human communities. With hopes of spurring synergies among different types and fields of anthropological work, we welcome papers on a wide array of ideas, including the following:
— Archaeological, ethnohistorical or ethnographic evidence of cultural time-spaces not dominated by growth
–Ethnography of slackers, drop-outs, downsizers, back-to-the-landers
–Alternative agrifood systems: agroecoogy, slow food, local food, vegetarianism
— Measures of happiness and meanings of lifestyle: Gross National Happiness, Buen Vivir, tiny houses
–Evolving commons (social, cultural, intellectual, material): urban commons, digital commons, indigenous territories, extractive reserves, scientific commons.
–The production of human bodies in regimes of expanding production and consumption
–Rethinking health and wellness, including complementary and alternative medicine
— Intentional communities recent and longstanding across cultures
–Spiritual and ethical movements that transcend “the spirit of capitalism”
–Economics of growth/degrowth: steady state economics, “sustainable development,” sharing, co-operatives, new economies, new currencies
–Ecologies of growth/degrowth: conservation, sustainable agriculture, alternative fuels, urban gardens
–Political and social movements calling for degrowth
*Material* degrowth is easy to grasp; it’s simply a reduction in the quantity of matter and energy that is transformed each day in a societal metabolism (see work by anthropologists Alf Hornborg and Simron Singh). The *meaningful* dimension of degrowth requires more creative thinking; it calls for decolonizing the social imaginary from cultural values and visions surrounding the pursuit of endless expansion of production and consumption (see anthropological thought by Serge Latouche, Arturo Escobar, Gilbert Rist, and anti-utilitarians from Marcel Mauss to Alain Caillé).
*Power* is what makes the practical implementation of degrowth so daunting (and for many, unimaginable); currently this project enjoys little formal political support, and notably less in the United States than elsewhere. At
the same time, multiple dimensions of power operating around unprecedented inequalities in wealth and privilege pose formidable barriers to collaborative efforts toward change.