Gastón Gordillo: Place, Territory, Terrain: A Spatial Triad for the Climate Crisis

7. December 2023

Gastón Gordillo (Vancouver)
Place, Territory, Terrain: A Spatial Triad for the Climate Crisis

In this presentation, I explore some of the spatial dimensions of the climate crisis by bringing materialist understandings of the planet’s terrain into conversation with humanist analyses of places and territories as human-made configurations. Inspired by authors who have criticized dualistic modes of thinking by articulating a triadic understanding of space (primarily Lefebvre but also Soja, Bourdieu, and Wacquant), I propose to look at the climate crisis through the triad of “place, territory, terrain.” In particular, I argue that the materiality of global warming demands that we see each node of “space on Earth” experienced by human actors as simultaneously a place (as socially experienced and organized), as part of territories (regulated politically by particular technologies of power), and as part of the volumetric, textured, and more-than-human materiality and flows of Earth. I examine the inseparability of these three dimensions in my own experience of climatic disruptions in Canada (where I live) and Argentina (where I’m from and where I conduct ethnographic research).

Gastón Gordillo is Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. A Guggenheim Fellow, his most recent book is Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction (2014, Duke University Press; Honorable Mention, Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing). He is also the author of Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Argentinean Chaco (2004, Duke University Press; winner of the Sharon Stephens Book Prize of the American Ethnological Society) and En el Gran Chaco: Antropologías e historias (2006, Prometeo), among other books.