Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia
Sarah Besky Image

In October 2019, How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet, a volume edited by Sarah Besky will be published by the School for Advanced Research (SAR) Press.  The authors of this volume push ethnographic inquiry beyond the anthropocentric documentation of human work on nature in order to develop a language for thinking about how all labor is a collective ecological act.

We now live on a planet that is troubled—even overworked—in ways that compel us to reckon with inherited common sense about the relationship between human labor and nonhuman nature. In Paraguay, fast-growing soy plants are displacing both prior crops and people. In Malaysia, dispossessed farmers are training captive orangutans to earn their own meals. In India, a prized dairy cow suddenly refuses to give more milk. Built from these sorts of scenes and sites, where the ultimate subjects and agents of work are ambiguous, How Nature Works develops an anthropology of labor that is sharply attuned to the irreversible effects of climate change, extinction, and deforestation. 

This volume furthers work by the volume editors’ in a series on The Naturalization of Work which you can read at Fieldsights, an endevour of the Society for Cultural Anthropology.

Sarah Besky is the Charles Evans Hughes Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International and Public Affairs at the Watson Insitute and CCSA's Director of Undergraduate studies.