Forces in the wind

by Lenore Manderson

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Increasingly, anthropologists are using art practices to represent their work and, with this shift in media and style, reach out to new audiences in the process. In Aeolian Politics, Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer collaborated with Ethnographic Terminalia to outfit a two-room cottage with video footage, turbomachinery, poetry, and supplementary ethnographic material. These media tell a story of politics and power on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, which has the best wind resources in the world. Zapotecs on the isthmus stare down state authorities and energy oligopolies, battling these forces that, like the wind itself, are beyond their control. Encased in the sensory environment of the installation, we are reminded forcefully of unintended consequences, even when the arguments for intervention—in this case, renewable energy—seem so compelling.