Colloquium: Stacey Langwick

Date(s) - 07/12/2018
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

AP 246


Colloquium Series:

Stacey Langwick, PhD (Cornell University)

Title: Properties of Healing in a Toxic World

Abstract: Toxicity is the ethical substance of the twenty-first century. Laboring over it establishes specifically grounded horizons for care and violence, and articulations of bodily wellbeing and legal rights. While the production and circulation of toxins is animated by global capital and industry, reflection on and labor over toxicity requires action rooted in specific histories and localized practices. This talk draws on extended ethnographic research in Tanzania. Not only the dumping of industrial capitalism’s harmful waste, but also the consumption of those products that facilitate modern domestic life (e.g., plastics, kerosene), agriculture (e.g., pesticides, chemical fertilizers), and health (e.g., antiretroviral, contraceptives), provoke Tanzanians to assess the complicated toxic loads borne by bodies today. This double-bind in which modern life is potentiated by toxicity is generating a new modality of plant-based healing: dawa lishe or nutritious medicines. For a rising number of Tanzanians dawa lishe is a space to experiment with cultivating the forms of strength and vitality needed to live in the contemporary world.  The experiment rests on producers efforts to work in (and through) partial, unstable, and distributed processes of commodification as they develop therapeutic herbs and foods. Working with the ways and times that dawa lishe products consolidate as commodities and when they are otherwise is also a process of working through tensions over the properties of plants in postcolonial Africa and the different articulations of toxicity, remedy, and memory that inhere in them. This talk examines particular modes of remembering kitarasa, a banana said to be indigenous to Kilimanjaro, and how technics of memory are mobilized to attribute therapeutic potency and condition arguments for property. I also explore ways to think with kitarasa allowing the banana to draw attention to human-plant collaborations to dwell and the affordances or ways of re-membering space that constitutes the forms of strength that enable dwelling well. Kitarasa, I suggest, incites the theorizing of relations among toxicity, healing and memory in ways that challenge the properties of therapeutic and economic value that drive the pharmacueticalization of health.

Bio: Stacey Langwick, an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Cornell University, has authored Bodies, Politics and African Healing (2011) and co-edited Medicine, Mobility and Power in Global Africa (2012). Currently, she is working on book entitled The Politics of Habitability: Plants, Sovereignty and Healing in a Toxic World, which examines the emerging herbals industry in Tanzania and the way that it (re)configures notions of medicine, property, chronicity and crisis that are fundamental to global health.


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