Surface to Air
My forthcoming manuscript, Desert/Storm explores various material permutations of sand and wind - the life and course of a Chinese dust storm, though successive phases of matter - as sites of political, anthropological, and scientific experiment. It is based on my dissertation! It moves from science stations, forestry and social management schemes, and sand-threatened cities in China's desertified interior, to the particulate politics of air-spacing in a dust-shocked Beijing, to the technical and political challenges of international meteorological exposures in Korea and the US, China's downwinds.
Dust over China, 2010, NASA

The manuscript offers itself as an intervention into the political anthropology of Reform China and its idiosyncratic approach to environmental crisis as a site of social, economic, and geophysical challenge, introducing a more-than-human political fold as the subject and target of state intervention. It also experiments with the forms, scales, and occupations of ethnographic inquiry, asking how terrestrial and atmospheric interfaces, air- and dust-streams, and experimental apparatuses displace and describe notions of anthropology's 'fields.'

Here are some papers related to this:
Zee, Jerry (forthcoming). "Machine Sky: Terrestrial and Social Engineering on a Chinese Weather-System." American Anthropologist.
Zee, Jerry (2017). Downwind. Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website. 24 October.
Zee, Jerry (2017). Holding Patterns: Sand and Political Time at China's Desert Shores. Cultural Anthropology 32(2): 215-241.
Choy, Tim & Jerry Zee (2015). Condition - Suspension. Cultural Anthropology 30(2): 210-223.


Precipitations is a supplementary research project with scientists, artists, and designers who approach and substantiate Chinese air as a dispersed solid. It is especially interested in the technopolitical apparatuses of aerosol management, embodiment, and conditioning in the time of suspension stoked by disastrous particulate air pollution across China. Suspension in two senses: the peculiar sense of a meantime in the decades before the Chinese state promises to have resolved the ever-normalized environmental and public health crisis of dense air; and in the sense of a physical relation between particles and air, with its implications for reworking human life as a matter of the distribution of multiple kinds of matter.

A month of sky
A month of sky

Enacting a physical precipitation of the air into a solid performs dust storms in reverse, while also dramatizing the technical capacity to particulate settlement that has become key to atmospheric management in China and elsewhere as a supplement to reducing source-point emissions.

Here are some things on this:
Zee, Jerry, Nicholas Shapiro, and PIAO Group (2017). "Alien Earth." Exhibition Catalogue, MAMBA.
Zee, Jerry (2016). Intake. Conference Paper at the Royal Anthropological Institute, London.
Zee, Jerry (2014). Breathing in the City: Beijing and the Architecture of Air. Scapegoat 8: 46-56. (Please feel free to ask for a copy or, better, to encourage your institution's library to subscribe to Scapegoat!)

Other Stuff
Some real early thoughts on the magic of political ecology, and a love note to Claude Levi Strauss in the excellent Anthropologies Project: "In a Strange Wood" (2012).


PIAO Interdisciplinary Atmospheric Observatory

The PIAO group is an interdisciplinary collaborative of friends drawn together by the provocations of atmosphere. We explore atmospheric problems as ethical and analytic incitements to modes of relating, thinking, and hoping together.

Big Table Ethnographic Collaborative

BIG TABLE is an ongoing ethnographic experiment that has grown out of the long friendship between myself and medical anthropologist Alissa Bernstein. Kickstarted again by the failures of big data driven approaches, especially in their spectacular inability to anticipate our past election, BIG TABLE asks how we might bring more views to collaboration around a big table - we are working on finding the table so that it is more than a metaphor - and how education in ethnographic attention might open a way through our political and epistemic present.


Bing! is the strange brainchild of Tim Choy and me. It is a way of drawing things together, asking not only for a vocabulary but a mode of vocabularization that is appropriate to a creolized planet.

uc santa cruz anthropology

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