Sicilian Futures in the Making

Living Species and the Latency of Biological and Environmental Threats

in Nature and Culture
Author:
Mara Benadusi Associate Professor, University of Catania, Italy mara.benadusi@unict.it

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Abstract

Discourses and practices of anticipation occupy a hypertrophic space in contexts where uncontrolled industrial growth has inflicted grave damage on peoples and territories, even triggering environmental disasters. This article explores the use of nonhuman species as anticipatory devices in a petrochemical terminal in Sicily, focusing on public representations of three species: scavenger bacteria that play a cleansing role and underline citizens’ moral responsibility to secure their best possible futures through bioscience; migrating flamingos that breed under the petrochemical chimneys, raising the possibility of hopefulness by highlighting ecosystem resilience; and fish affected by spina bifida, which reveal human health status in advance, communicating the need to live in preparation for potential diseases. The analysis reveals the highly contentious character of these anticipatory devices and the contested ideas about possible futures they imply, thus shedding light on the ecological frictions that have repercussions locally and globally, in discourse and social practice.

Contributor Notes

Mara Benadusi is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Catania, and President of the Italian Society for Applied Anthropology. Her main research interests focus on disasters, environmental crises, and the political consequences of the processes of industrialization and land grabbing. She carried out a lengthy research project in Sri Lanka after the reconstruction following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake tsunami, and more recently, she has been dealing with the long-term effects of industrial pollution in a petrochemical terminal in Sicily. Email: mara.benadusi@unict.it.

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