Of Ravens and Men paper at ASA 2021
Daniel presented a paper at ASA online conference at St. Andrews, 29 March – 2 April, 2021. The panel entitled Intractable plastic: responsibilities in ‘plasticized’ worlds I was organized by Patrick O’Hare and Tridibesh Dey.
‘Of Ravens and Men’: Multispecies Encounters with Plastics in a Czech Wastescape. Intractable plastic: responsibilities in ‘plasticized’ worlds I.
Plastic waste raises questions about responsibility for its open-ended engagements and effects across the human and non-human realms. There are two questions that require attention. First, what are the limits for imagining and attributing responsibility for plastic waste beyond the human? Second, what would the concept of responsibility look like if one used plastic waste’s capacity to engage in unexpected relations? Building upon Laidlaw’s view of responsibility, I explore how non-human organisms’ engagement with plastics co-creates responsibility. This paper is based on my ethnographic research of Czech wastescapes where I experienced different conceptualizations and contestations of responsibility for plastic waste being ‘out of place’ because of the activities of cunning nonhuman agents: the ravens. These birds developed skills to find and retrieve food waste from the surface of a landfill. The transport of food waste is facilitated by various plastic containers that the ravens drop to the ground and thus create accumulations of waste in the woods. The ravens appear in the nexus between the waste company, farmers, hunters, foresters, other animals and plants. The company contemplates about its responsibility for animal littering and cleaning the surrounding woods, farmers blame the ravens for hurting the calves on their pastures, hunters feel responsibility for keeping the balance in ‘nature’, and foresters cut down the trees to reduce opportunities for ravens’ littering. Rather than searching for a single source or notion of responsibility, I examine the frictions in multispecies interactions to propose a notion of distributed responsibility growing along the relations.
Short video showing a raven working on a plastic cup: