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HadžiMuhamedović, Safet, Heathcote, Gina, Hamzić, Vanja and Jones, Emily (2019) Thinking like Tumbleweeds: Bodily Genres and the Vitality of Beings at Large. In: RAI2020: Anthropology and Geography: Dialogues Past, Present and Future, 4-7 June 2020, SOAS University of London. (Unpublished)

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Short abstract: We invite you to think about and with tumbleweeds, but also to think like tumbleweeds. How can we include tumbleweeds to revisit the work tumbling away from the hegemonic scripts of what it means to be (non)human? We welcome papers on bodies (of ‘people’, ‘matter’, ‘thought’…) as styled into genres, as well as on the roaming resilience of the otherwise. Long abstract: Nonhuman beings are at hand to craft a figure of speech or a visual trope, but they exist, nevertheless. As the silent cinematic extras, tumbleweeds usually entered the scene to designate someplace desolate, unhomely and uninhabited, a wilderness encroaching upon the order of home. In The Plainsmen (1936), a tumbleweed bursts into a home whilst Louisa Cody is cleaning (she kicks it out with her broom). Tumbleweeds are the ‘Wild West’ (refusing to be tamed, settled), yet the ubiquitous tumbleweeds of the ‘Westerns’ had been brought from the Russian steppes in the nineteenth century (apparently piggybacking on grain imported to South Dakota). ‘Tumbleweed’ denotes the germination technique of several species from which the plant detaches from the root and diffuses the seeds as it is carried by the wind. Such untied dispersal units are known as diaspores. A tumbleweed has roots and a vascular system, yet the tissues die out to allow the seeds to escape. Tumbleweeds entangle each other, but also with the ‘humans’ and the ‘things’ they encounter. Their agency is inseparable from the wind. They are a hindrance, ‘invasive’ and ‘noxious’ – an unhomely weed, freed from home. They are symbols of awkward silence, frontier areas and abandonment. Yet, they cross borders, connect disparate zones and signal strange, resistant, budding life. In Bob Nolan’s song from the 1930s, one is ‘lonely, but free’, to be found ‘drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds’. It reminds us of dérive, the Situationist International’s psychogeographic exercise of disorientation. Papers may engage tumbleweeds as meaning-holders, extend their theoretical purchase, or disconnect from the root and tumble about wider plains. They can deal with mobility and flux, silence, subjectivity, kinship, nomads, frontiers, posthuman theories, natureculture, Actor-Network Theory, or something otherwise. We welcome ‘ethnographic’ and case-study engagements, as well as ventures of ‘pure’ imagination.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Other)
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
Departments and Subunits > Interdisciplinary Studies
Subjects: S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
H Social Sciences
Copyright Statement: © 2020 RAI-Royal Anthropological Institute
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2019 10:31

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