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Showing posts from September, 2019

Forest Fires, Complicity, and Helplessness

--> Photo from The Guardian. Click here for more: Indonesian forest fires burn causing toxic waste across south-east Asia -- in pictures . The last time I was in Kalimantan was in 2014. There were widespread forest fires at the time. When I got home I couldn't talk about it for weeks. I felt so ineffectual as a human, so lame. I still do now. I wrote this then. Dear Baun Bango,* On flight GA0550 from Jakarta to Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan, I felt sickly dread and happy anticipation rise from the pit of my stomach and lodge themselves in my throat like regurgitated limbs of a tiny wishbone. Until we were below the clouds, flying over Borneo and seeing the expanse of dark green forest run through with brown, glistening, serpentine rivers, I was afraid we might not reach you as planned. A part of me was also afraid that we would actually make it. The airplane banked and revealed to us a thick column of rolling smoke, rising up from an a

A Letter from Camote, Ph.D.

I received a letter from a friend today! It's been ages since we've heard anything from each other. The last time he had anything to say to me, it was about what he called The Tragedy of the Privates . My dear friend, Five years ago, I left your cozy little kitchen to work in the field. It might have felt to you like we lost touch. Not entirely, if you ask a sweet potato. I've told you how news travels in the plant world. You've moved to another city and word has reached me that you have planted some of my relatives in your small plot of soil in back of your apartment. This is wonderful, because now I can send you this message. Since we last spoke, I've been doing extensive fieldwork around the world, in places where humans and root crops are dependent on each other. In a conference at which sweet potato fries were served for snacks, I learned of auto-ethnography. Intrigued, I decided I should give it a try. As you can imagine, it's challenging for a