Heather Davis: Intimate Inheritance—Plastic and Its Relations

"Welcome to the Anthropocene" is an interdisciplinary lecture series, organized by the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities. Scholars from different backgrounds ask how the age of the Anthropocene has transformed their discipline and research.

This image shows several basins shaped like arches. The basins are part of a lithium mine located in Argentina, and their blue contents contrast with the dessert around.

Salar de Olaroz. Photo: Planet Labs / Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Heather says: "Thinking through questions of inheritance, intimacy, and queer ecologies, I introduce the concept of plastic matter. Building on the work of scholars in feminist new materialism, petrocultures, and science and technology studies, I use the concept of plastic matter to describe the philosophical assumptions that fostered the conditions for plastic to emerge in the world in the first place. This concept speaks to how the materiality of plastic has been transferred to our expectations of matter more broadly, how matter itself has come to be produced as inherently pliable, disposable, and consumable. I argue that it is important to become more intimate with the objects we abjure, more curious about plastic, not to eschew the very real damage it is doing, but as an invitation to become more accountable."

Heather Davis is a writer, researcher and teacher whose work draws on feminist and queer theory to examine ecology, materiality, and contemporary art in the context of settler colonialism. She is assistant professor of Culture and Media at The New School in New York.

The lecture is part of the 2022 Welcome to the Anthropocene series, organised by the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities.

Suggested readings

Davis, Heather. 2022. Plastic Matter. Duke University Press.

Published Feb. 15, 2022 4:30 PM - Last modified Apr. 21, 2022 10:40 AM