Pierre du Plessis

Speculative Presences and Temporal Disjunctures: Exploring Landscapes for Truffles, Water, and Gas in the Kalahari Desert

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Abstract    In the Kalahari Desert, Botswana, disparate histories and practices of gathering, cattle herding, and, more recently, natural gas prospecting use water to attend to the temporalities of landscapes, albeit in different ways and at different scales. This talk explores how looking for presences hidden beneath Kalahari landscapes – truffles to be gathered, groundwater to hydrate cattle, and natural gas to feed an energy hungry country– utilize water as a temporal scaling device that has material effects on Kalahari socialities, ecological patterns, and landscape geologies. Thinking across the three different speculative practices, this paper argues that the divergent ways that water is tracked, captured, or injected not only reflect different economic practices and logics, but enact temporal disjunctures that come to clash, create erasures, and produce fractures in the contemporary landscapes and broader political economy of the Kalahari today.

Biography    Pierre du Plessis is an environmental anthropologist, with PhDs from Aarhus University and the University of California, Santa Cruz. His dissertation research explored tracking and gathering practices as modes of knowing, relating to, and theorizing more-than-human relations and landscapes in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana. He currently holds an Independent Research Fund, Denmark (DFF) International Postdoctoral fellowship, hosted by the Anthropology Department and the Centre for Environmental Humanities at Aarhus University and the Environmental Humanities South program at the University of Cape Town. His new project, "Enacting Contested Landscapes: Dwelling, Conservation, and Prospecting in the Kalahari Desert" is an anthropological investigation of the contrasting formulations of landscape among indigenous communities, wildlife conservationists, and natural gas prospectors in the landscapes of the Kalahari Desert.

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Published Nov. 10, 2020 4:26 PM - Last modified June 17, 2021 4:17 PM