Current Institutional Affiliation
Visiting Lecturer, Anthropology, Dartmouth College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Duke University
When Mountains Melt: Life on the Edge in the Peruvian Andes

This project examines the social consequences of climate change by focusing on Andean entrepreneurs who work as both miners and mountain guides in Peru's Cordillera Blanca. The Cordillera Blanca is the world's second highest mountain range; its rapidly melting glaciers threaten tens of thousands with deadly floods in the present, while millions will suffer regional drought within a generation. I approach climate change through the everyday, tactile experience of men who risk death to lead people up mountains, and extract the minerals that melt the glaciers they need. Destroying nature in pursuit of wealth, miner-mountaineers live the central contradiction of the anthropocene: that we both cause and suffer from climate change. For as temperatures rise, the mountains unleash avalanches, killing more mountaineers each year. I ask how immediate danger inflects miner-mountaineers' dreams and plans for social ascent, and how they make sense of their role within global development and environmental destruction. I do so through focusing on risk and rumors: ways of making sense of the space between visible changes and invisible futures. By studying how miner-mountaineers perceive and navigate the risks they produce, narrate their place on the mountains they love and destroy, and forge meaning of danger, I will shed light on the subjective and social experience of emblematic figures in a planetary rush to the edge of existence. How miner-mountaineers produce and imagine life on the edge may also give us a peek into our own future, which, in the Cordillera Blanca, is now.