Anthropology of Natural Wealth
From diamonds and bananas to coca and water, nature’s wealth is now commodities that shape the way we think of global connections from early colonial encounters to our late capitalist world. They are signs of the legacies of colonial exploitation as well as the seemingly infinite reach of global capital. Yet, anthropology of the politics around these commodities has brought to the fore the provocative and unpredictable ways in which natural resources shape new forms of cultural practices, social distinctions, violence, and resistance. They are pivots around which nations are being imagined, states are being legitimated, and nature itself is being re-defined. This course will examine ethnographic writing on the cultures of natural wealth. Drawing on examples of the petroleum boom in Nigeria, the forests in Indonesia, coffee drinking in the US, or the politics of coca in Peru, for instance, this course aims to understand the social and political lives of natural wealth by exploring the places and people linked by their extraction and consumption. We will see how these commodities help us to conceptually approach colonialism, capitalism, and globalization and contribute more broadly to an anthropology of modern life.