Political Ecologies of the Precarious, Kath Weston

Political Ecologies of the Precarious, Kath Weston

ABSTRACT: Soon after debates about post-Fordism drew attention to the precarious- ness of employment under new labor regimes, a sense of precarity entered ecological discourse through depictions of climate change that made the hold of life on earth appear increasingly tenuous. Political ecologies of the precarious incorporate an affective stance that allows people to live with apparent contradictions, reassuring them that they can poison the world without limit even as they recognize that a limit must be out there some-where and suturing them to ecological demise even as they work against  it. Through a series of ethnographic “stopgaps” set in Chicago, New Delhi, and Venice, this essay examines the part played by Henry Ford’s iconic product, the automobile, in cultivating this affective stance by bringing“the masses” into an intimate, visceral engagement with the products of  synthetic chemistry. The story of how the car became a leading protago- nist in quest narratives of the path to sustainability suggests ways to rein-vent such affective intimacies by organizing the world into something other than a collection of resources waiting to be managed.

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