SENKU seminar with Heid Jerstad
Cracked, chilly and ‘doesn’t last many days’: limestone mountains and cement houses in the Anthropocene Himalayas
Abstract: This paper concerns the material implications of the global cement industry, illustrated with a small village in limestone mining country in north India. Limestone rocks started off in the ocean as the fragments of many sea creatures (exo-)skeletons. They then rose to form the Himalayas. Now these are being hacked into pieces and driven downhill to the cement factory, where the tiny bones are burnt and the carbon released into the air. What remains is processed and put into white plastic sacks, which find their way up the mountain again to rise as grey-walled houses. These new houses, villagers say: 'don't last many days' yet they link the village in to the global economy and an ethos of impermanence and replacement while the adverts with images of improbably muscled men imply strength, stability and the superiority of synthetic stone. However, the new houses crack, crumble and grow mould and people in Gau agree that they are chilly in cold weather and stuffy in the heat. The story of limestone in Himachal Pradesh is a story of how materials matter, from climate change to bodily comfort.
Heid Jerstad completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2016. She did a traditional village ethnography in north India focusing on the implications of weather for people's lives. In 2017 she held a GCRF postdoctoral fellowship on the environmental impacts of cement housing in India, working with architects and making a short film on the subject. Heid is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. She is based at the University of Edinburgh in the UK and on a writing grant in 2018, writing about the dairy practices and preparing plans for work on human-rock relationships. You can follow her on twitter @entanglednotion and see www.weathermatters.net for more on climate change research.
The seminar will take place in the seminar room on the 3rd floor, Frederiks gate 2 (Entrance via back door on Kristian IVs gate - ring the doorbell for the third floor) . After the seminar there will be room for informal conversations and drinks.