Ongoing discussions of welfare and human viability that focus on state responsibility to provide care and services rarely consider how new sources of vulnerability are emerging within the context of climate change. Scholars attentive to these processes often use the designation “Anthropocene” to characterize the current period of large-scale anthropogenic environmental changes. This essay argues that although the Anthropocene adds a much-needed corrective to climate change narratives that view human action as inconsequential, it treats humans as if they were a single, homogenous force, undifferentiated by history, geography, vulnerabilities, and relationships to the reproduction of sociomaterial environments. Most crucially, this essay problematizes the historical and ontological separation of natural and anthropogenic environmental conditions and human and nonhuman social actors that undergird narratives of the Anthropocene. Such forced distinctions, it argues, limit the ability to recognize emerging vulnerabilities that pose a threat to human and nonhuman well-being. More specifically, this essay relies on fieldwork from South Asia to examine how everyday social, material, and affective relationships bind people to nonhumans and shape the ways they envision welfare that are not captured in overwhelming state emphases on landlessness, housing, or services.

You do not currently have access to this content.