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Life After Chemistry or A Carbon Anthropology

Carbon: a chemical element, C, fifteenth most abundant element in the earth’s crust, fourth most abundant element in the universe, second most abundant element in the human body, the key element for all known human and non-human life on earth.

What might persuade you that anthropology should discard the distinction between life and non-life if not carbon?

 

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Spray

Adéline chided me for going all the way to town to buy a “natural” mosquito spray that—while hardly effective—I continued to slather on my body every time we jogged the wooded paths of the Forêt Vatable in Martinique. She had gotten used to my declining to borrow her Pyramid brand “Repel 100,” a 100% deet formulation that she swore by, …

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Bleach

My friend Dr. Muñoz makes his own bleach.  He uses salt, water, and electrodes to render sodium hypochlorite.  To do this, he has colonized a small space in a garage-cum-storage unit nestled on the grounds of the Managua health center where he works.  His bleach-making is ad-hoc and off the books.  Dr. Muñoz doesn’t get extra money or time from …

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