ANTH Colloquium - Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 12:00pm

3260 South St., Penn Museum, Widener Lecture Room

The Sustainability of Everything

Sustainability is about carrying life on, not about the achievement and maintenance of a steady state. Moreover if it is to mean anything, it must be for everyone and everything, and not for some to the exclusion of others. What kind of world, then, has a place for everyone and everything, both now and into the indefinite future? What does it mean for such a world to carry on? And how can we make it happen? To answer these questions, I shall take a closer look at what we mean by ‘everything’. I shall argue that it is not the sum total of minimally existing entities, joined together into ever larger and more complex structures, but a rather a fluid and heterogeneous plenum from within which things emerge as its crumples and folds. How, then, does such an understanding of everything affect our concept of sustainability? It can no longer be understood, as in dominant political discourses, in terms of the numerical balance of recruitment and loss. It is rather about life-cycles, about things’ lasting, not staying the same. In the sustainability of everything there is no opposition between stability and change. The more that global science has committed itself to a numerical calculus of sustainability, the more it has fallen to art to present the alternative. It is an alternative that has crucial implications for the ways we think about democratic citizenship.