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Conference: Stories of Ambivalent Potato Companionships across Anthropocene Spaces and Times by Olivia Angé

​The event is a part of "Heroes and Villains in the Anthropocene" - ​ a virtual seminar series (Spring – Autumn 2021)​. 


28/04/2021, 1-2pm: On Parasites and Commensals. Stories of Ambivalent Potato Companionships across Anthropocene Spaces and Times by Olivia Angé (Université libre de Bruxelles) 

The talk will explore the theme of heroes and villains in the context of conserving the North American monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). The monarch butterfly is a migratory insect that travels across Canada, The United States and Mexico, performing a 4000-km migration. By completing this migration, the at-risk insect connects and disconnects humans, revealing tensions of a North/South dichotomy across geographies and the different actors participating in the insect's survival. In the 'North,' the conservation strategy relies on the voluntary work of 'butterfly amateurs' who recreate monarch habitat, rear the insect at home, and often contribute economically and affectively to habitat protection. In the 'South,' the conservation model is experienced as a top-down imposition restricting land use and traditional livelihoods; these are people who suffer and contest 'nature-trespassers' labels and carry the political weight of conserving a disappearing insect. Based on ethnographic data collected with these two often opposed conserva- tion communities, I explore the heroes' and villains' dynamic around ontological questions. What happens when actors co-living with the same organism have radically opposed ideas of what a butterfly is or the form it should live? My exploration of one insect, two worlds inter- sects with the 'many worlds' and one planet debate (Viveros de Castro 2014; Abramson and Holbraad 2014, recently Latour's biennial exhibit) in a postcolonial context (Todd 2016). In this way, by exploring the tension of these opposed yet co-produced communities, the paper explores how a disappearing butterfly confronts essential perceptions of nature in a moment of unquestionable crisis.

More about the series & pre-registration​​. ​