178 – Chris Kelty

Posted by on May 23, 2019
178 – Chris Kelty

Dominic and Cymene talk about HBO’s Chernobyl and discuss whether humans will eventually try to breed chihuahua-scale alligators. Then (18:45) we welcome the multitalented Chris Kelty to the podcast to talk about his forthcoming book, The Participant(https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo44520895.html) and his recent fieldwork on animal control in Los Angeles. Chris explains how the challenge of describing experience is at the heart of participant-observation and how that challenge motivated him to delve deeply into what exactly “participation” has meant over time. We talk through the genealogy of thinking about participation and how historical efforts to make participation mobile and scalable ended up constraining its forms significantly. Chris describes what he means by the form of personhood he terms “contributory autonomy” and how it finds its apotheosis in the infinite and fleeting participatory publics of social media today. We detour from there into the recent Facebook scandals, how Twitter is formatted to foment opinionating over understanding, and what could be done to make participatory practices more substantive and stable. We then turn to Chris’s recent animal control ride-alongs and what he is learning about the politics of human interaction with feral urban mammals, the ethics of making them killable, and current anthropological debates about the Anthropocene and domestication.  Finally, we hear that Limn(https://limn.it) has a new project going on resilience and cities. If you are attending 4S, check out the Limn panels there!