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Generator Life

Generator Life
19 Russell Street, Room AP246
Time: Oct 21st, 2:00 pm End: Oct 21st, 4:00 pm
Interest Categories: Religion, Study of (FAS), Islamic Studies, Ethnography, Anthropology (UTSC), Anthropology (UTM), Anthropology (FAS), African, 2000-
Talk by Brian Larkin, Columbia University

The Department of Anthropology presents

Generator Life

Anthropology Colloquium Series co-sponsored by the UTSC Centre for Ethnography

At one end of a generator petrol pours in. At the other, electricity, smoke, and sound flood out. Like a living being the generator ingests and expels. In Nigeria generators were once icons of elite mobility known by the name ‘better pass my neighbour'. Now they are ubiquitous, coming in all sizes, their sound, smell and presence absolutely integral to how Nigeria functions.

This paper examines generator life. It focuses on their physicality, how generators shape the technologized, ambient environment of urban Nigeria and the daily virtuosity required to obtain petrol, fill, operate and repair the generator. To live a life organized by the generator means to restructure rooms, houses, buildings, cities to take into account generator use. It involves knowing when to turn it on and off, which appliances can be used when it is on and which not, how to protect it from elements. I thus focus on the technology of the generator and the cultural techniques it engenders as a means of inquiring into the relations between technology, the body and urban life.

Brian Larkin is the Director of Graduate Studies and a Professor of anthropology at Barnard College, Columbia University. His research focuses on the ethnography and history of media in Nigeria. Most broadly he examines the introduction of media technologies into Nigeria-cinema, radio, digital media-and the religious, political, and cultural changes they bring about. He explores how media technologies comprise broader networked infrastructures that shape a whole range of actions from forms of political rule, to new urban spaces, to religious and cultural life. He has also published widely on issues of technology and breakdown, piracy and intellectual property, the global circulation of cultural forms, infrastructure and urban space, sound studies, and Nigerian film (Nollywood). He is currently completing the manuscript for Secular Machines: Media and the Materiality of Islamic Revival, which analyzes the role media play in the rise of new Islamic movements in Nigeria and explores theoretical questions about technology and religion.

The event is free and open to all. Registration required. For further information, please contact the Department of Anthropology at (416) 978-4805.

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