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Rainmaking, Happiness, and the Problem of Self-Devouring Growth

  • University of Amsterdam, REC Building Room C0.02 166 Nieuwe Achtergracht Amsterdam, NH, 1018 WV Netherlands (map)

This talk examines technologies of public health and the aesthetics of happiness in Botswana, where there is an ongoing crisis of water.  Taking rainmaking in 19th and early 20th century as my central example and charting its demise as a political technology amid the rise of hydraulics, I consider how a metaphysical politics of collective well-being has gradually been overtaken by a materialist politics of consumption.  I consider how the hermeneutics of rainmaking offer a way to think about the predicament of the developmentalist state.

About the speaker

Julie Livingston is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University, where she is also affiliated with the anthropology department. She is interested in the human body as a moral condition and mode of consciousness, in care as a social practice, and in taxonomy and relationships that upend or complicate it. Her work is at the intersection of history, anthropology, and public health. She is the author of Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic, Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana, and numerous articles and essays on topics including aging, disability, disgust, suicide, and medical photography. Livingston is the recipient of the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing (2013), the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Welcome Medal (2012), and the American Association for the History of Medicine’s William Welch Medal (2014). 

Sponsor: Department of Anthropology, The African Studies Seminar and the Becoming Men Research Group