Recent environmental changes have sparked off unprecedented dialogues between practitioners of the earth sciences and the humanities - dialogues which defy some of the basic assumptions underpinning western science. However, a gap still persists between natural scientists and scholars in the humanities in their tendency to concentrate respectively on solid matter and fluid meaning. This article seeks to close this gap by paying attention to glacial ice and concrete, materials that often mark the onset and culmination of human history and have been historically regarded as solid fluids. We suggest that ice and concrete are caught in a punctuated understanding of change that turns fluidity and solidity into mutually exclusive properties. The article concludes by comparing this oxymoronic syndrome with the ways the Inuit of West Greenland experience their cryogenic landscapes as nurturing environments in constant becoming.
Bibliographical noteThe research on which this article is based has been supported by the project Solid Fluids in the Anthropocene: A Transdisciplinary Inquiry into the Archaeological Anthropology of Materials (2015–2018), funded by the British Academy for the Humanities and the Social Sciences under its International Partnership and Mobility Scheme. The research has also been supported by the project Concrete Futures: An Inquiry into Modern Life in the Anthropocene with Materials (2015–2018), funded by Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico (FONDECYT), Chile, No. 11150278. We are grateful to the
British Academy and to FONDECYT for their support. An earlier version of this article was presented at the workshop “Time of Materials” organized by Gay Hawkins at the University of Western Sydney. We are grateful to Gay for inviting us to contribute to the event, to Juan Francisco Salazar for making our attendance possible and to Guy Keulemans who, at the workshop, provided detailed comments on the version presented there. We extend our gratitude to two anonymous reviewers, whose generous comments, criticism and suggestions also contributed to the development of our argument.
- climate change
- solid fluids