Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Final Essay Breakdown

Below you will find a short breakdown of the final term paper. Think of this outline as a set of loose morphological cues, not a series of adjoined prison cells for "holding" your ideas. By approaching the final essay in terms of its constitutive parts, the process of writing it will feel less onerous and more manageable. However, don't lose sight of the essay as a whole --to this end, remember to explain how the various parts fit into the larger structure of your argument.   

Introduction               1 page (260 words)
Literature Review*    2 pages (700 words)
Historical Context      2 pages (450 words)
Findings                     7-10 pages (2,000+ words)
Discussion                  3 pages (1,000 words)
Total                           15-20 pages

* The literature review section must engage with scholarly work either written by anthropologists or some other adjacent discipline in the humanities or social sciences. If for whatever reason you're having a difficult time locating appropriate texts, please email me for help.

I am happy to provide feedback on any draft versions of your final paper. I will have extended office hours next week and during study week. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Monday, November 17, 2014

You will receive extra credit if you (1) attend Elizabeth Povinelli's lecture today a 4:30 pm in Myron Taylor Hall and (2) post a short response discussing the implications of a theoretical claim raised in the lecture for the topic you've decided to write about in your final essay.

Location Details
Myron Taylor Hall is in the Law School. If you haven't already been to the Law University's reading room, go early and try studying in the gothic atmosphere beneath its vaulted ceiling. 


Elizabeth Povinelli
Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology
Columbia University

Monday, November 17 
4:30 PM

184 Myron Taylor Hall (Law School)
Reception to Follow

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Winter Manifesto

I came across this pretty brilliant manifesto titled, KEEP IT DIRTY. It's written by two English professors, Samuel Jacobson and Eileen Joy. 

While there's no drought in upstate New York, I think the message is still appropriate as we enter that special time of the year when the streets and paths of Ithaca become a smutty mixture of sodium chloride, greasy soil, and snowmelt. 

Some highlights below. 
"KEEP IT DIRTY is asking everyone to stop washing their cars. As in, right now. Just don’t do it. It’s easy because you don’t have to do anything. It’s also dirty. It’s a new dirty geo-politics. Droughts are dusty, but you’re not dusty enough yet. And neither is your car."
KEEP IT DIRTY says you can do nothing, and it’s fabulous.
KEEP IT DIRTY embraces a practical negativity and inhumanism that refuses resignation.
KEEP IT DIRTY recognizes, with Mary Douglas, that purity is indeed next to danger, but we need to get closer to that danger. By getting dirtier. Fuck cleanliness boundaries.
KEEP IT DIRTY uses your laziness in the interest of a better California, a better world, and a better tomorrow.
KEEP IT DIRTY is not necessarily theirs, because it is yours, mine, and ours. KEEP IT DIRTY is an act of landscape architecture.
KEEP IT DIRTY writes a blank check for tomorrow. Scrawled in mud.
KEEP IT DIRTY says “you know what I mean.” And you say, “yeah, I won’t move a finger, then.”
KEEP IT DIRTY is inaction in action. 
KEEP IT DIRTY heard you mumble “ahhh … fuck it” and said coyly: “OK.” 
KEEP IT DIRTY answers the question: how can networks scale and retain utility, through aesthetics? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Climate Change Bunkers

Ever wondered what global warming has to do with "pet" care?

Three words: Underground Dog Parks

When trying to determine a research topic allow yourself to be drawn into a story that leaves you wanting to know more. The best papers are always motivated by a sense of compulsion to choose between knowing and not-knowing.

Source: WSJ

Additional Links:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Length: 15-20 pages
First Draft: November 23, before Midnight (at least 6 pages)
Final Draft: December 11, before 11 am

Today we know the Earth's atmosphere --a thin envelope of gas that separates all known life from the abyssal emptiness of space-- is warming. As we've read and discussed over the semester, for much of human history, the basic presumption that humans exist in a state of natural rapport with their endemic "lifeworld" has meant that climatic conditions have only recently been called into question. Of course, even when the atmospheric situation finally became the object of serious philosophical concern, from Hippocrates and beyond, being-in-the-air has generally been accepted to be a static given, albeit one with disputed cultural implications. However, with the discovery of climate change in the 19th century, and more recently, the anthropogenic greenhouse effect, the naive certitude that Nature's aerial vault is somehow beyond direct human modification has once and for all been overturned. 

Today we know the Earth's atmosphere is warming. Two weeks ago the IPCC released its most definitive report to date; in it the authors once again reaffirmed that, indeed, anthropogenic drivers are “extremely likely” to be the dominant cause of observed planetary warming. As the report went on to note, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses have now reached levels that have not been breached in at least 800,000 years. To put this in context of our species's history: the last time carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide were present in the atmosphere at current levels it was 600,000 years before the first anatomical human took her first imaginary upright steps.

Today we know the Earth's atmosphere is warming. However, as we've seen again and again over the course of this semester, what exactly this secondary warming means for the future is neither a straightforward problem nor a disinterested fact. 

Option A. Research Paper

For your final essay your assignment is to explore the problem of climate change through a topic of your own choosing. 

I should like you to investigate something that pleases and disturbs you with special attention to its weird and surprising details. I insist that you enjoy this assignment. I also insist that you develop an original claim, observation, or concept that's adequately supported with evidence, reflection, and well-timed affirmation. 

Write a paper that you'd actually want to read; a paper that will be submitted to a skeptical, bullshit weary superior. Be unique. Be curious. Be unsatisfied and impatient with arguments and observations that offend your sense of intellectual rigor or humanity. Call into question things that aren't normally called into question. Oppose mindlessness. 

Option B. Can Climate Change Speak?

In a mute world where hurricanes, carbon dioxide, and glacial ice are in themselves silent, what does it take to make "climate change" speak? 

For your final essay, I want you to answer this question by way of a detailed interview. In other words, you're job will be to speak to someone who speaks for the climate! 

Write a paper that incorporates narrative, dialogue, and description with an original meditation on what it means to establish climate change as a scientific, political, and cultural reality. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Week 12 & 13. Hyperobjects [Hw]

Your homework and in class exercise over the next two weeks entails three inter-related tasks. 

Part I

Create something that unpacks the philosophical positions presented in your assigned chapter. This might take any number of forms. For example, you might produce a series of images, construct a complex chart or table, curate a gallery of gifs, create a short video, or invent a game. The only requirement is that your creation earnestly engages with the text and invites active contemplation beyond it. In this way, your goal is to create a kind of companion piece to the chapter. This will ultimately end up on the course website. 

Part II

Unveil and present your creation and the chapter to the class. 

Part III

Lead class discussion. 


Below you will find the chapter and team assignments. I have also included everyone's netIDs. Plan on getting together in person.  

As you read the chapter and begin to envision some way to imaginatively unpack it, if you encounter a reference or idea you don't "get" then figure out a way to get it. Don't preemptively excuse yourself from understanding. 

Your education will always be your responsibility. 

Also, don't forget, you have access to a digital archive of nearly every academic journal ever published, vast troves of visual media, and roughly 8 million printed books. 

Feel free to email me if you have any further questions. 


Lucas (lvw24) / Sam (sm959)

- Nonlocality 
Erika (ena7) / Jeanette (jp644) 


- Temporal Undulation 
Scott (sk963) / Christina (cmy43)

- Phasing 
Karalyn (knp25) /  Kevin (kg339)


- Interobjectivity
JT (jt95) / Brendan (bd287)

- The End of the World
Melody (mjs585) / Justin (jhg776) / Ryan (rs257)


- Hypocrisies 
Su (ssc269) / Albert (ajc423) 

- The Age of Asymmetry 
Ibrahym (ias38) / Brian (bly22) / Jeff (jsd252)

Week 12 & 13. Hyperobjects [Rd]

  • A Quake in Being, Viscosity, Nonlocality: pp. 1-54 

  • Temporal Undulation, Phasing, Interobjectivity: pp. 55-95

  • The End of the World, Hypocrisies: pp. 99-158

11/ 20. 
  • The Age of Asymmetry: pp. 159-201

Monday, November 3, 2014

Evangelical Climatology

Example A 

“Climate change alarmists and those who are pushing population control… promote homosexuality... They deny it but the evidence is there; it’s footnoted in my book.” 
“I remember a few years ago, it might have been Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, made a reference to a hurricane or a storm being an act of God — it’s interesting that’s how we refer to some of these things in our insurance policies — they were ridiculed, saying ‘how dumb can you be?’ Well, there’s more to back that up than to say what’s happening in our environment, our climate, is because of people driving Suburbans or coal-fired power plants.” 
-- Tony Perkins of Family Research Council (Christian Conservative lobby group)

Example B

The following commercial was produced by the Evangelical Environmental Network. The group claims that there's a Biblical mandate to act on "carbon pollution". 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Cornell & Fossil Fuel Divestment

As I continue to grade your last papers, I'm a bit surprised no one ended up examining anything related to fossil fuel divestment. There's an article in the NYTimes today on the topic that actually mentions Cornell (not in the most positive light), check it out: 'The Missing Campus Climate Debate
"Climate Change is our era’s defining challenge, but most of America’s universities are planning to sit this one out. Though students and faculty members at more than 400 colleges have called for administrators to divest from fossil-fuel energy companies, fewer than 20 have committed to doing so. Stanford recently divested from coal, but none of the other schools had endowments within the 150 largest in 2013. 
"The principal justification schools offer is that endowments should be reserved to advance an academic mission. As Cornell’s president, David J. Skorton, put it, “We must resist, in almost all cases, the temptation to manage these precious funds to further social or political causes, no matter how worthy.” Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s president, said, “The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.”
This could be an interesting topic to explore in a final paper! 

Week 11. Odds Against Tomorrow [Hw]

Part I. 

Compare and contrast the representation of weather and the use of meteorological language in Odds Against Tomorrow, the Genesis version of the flood, and the PBS documentary Inside the Megastorm

Is it possible to separate scientific anticipation from religious and prophetic dramatization? Refer to the texts in your response.  

Part II.

Propose at least two questions for class discussion. 

Week 11. Odds Against Tomorrow (part 2) [Rd]

10/4. Psycho Canoe and the Ark

10/6. Catastrophe and the Camp