Dis/connection Matters: Natural, Synthetic, and Digital


Keywords: materiality, natural, ontology, digital, synthetic, mediation, valuation


The world is experiencing new relations and transformations between natural, synthetic, and digital substances. Rather than considering these as materially distinct or ontologically separate, this Special Issue of TSANTSA interrogates how they are interlocked in socio-material processes of mediation, transmutation, and valuation. By conceptualizing the specificity of their separateness, the special issue makes possible the comparison and commensuration of their relationship, and to move beyond their essential qualities. What are the boundaries, leakages, or dis/connections between human and digital, natural and artificial, the organic and synthetic matters? Based on ethnographic research in laboratories, gold refineries, bio-tech microbial seeds and digitally-produced natural sounds, human-machine apps and cellular agriculture, each contribution theorizes the mediation, transmutation, and valuation of natural synthetics, the humanness of artificial intelligence, or the materiality of digital elements.

Author Biographies

Filipe Calvão, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Filipe Calvão is an associate professor in anthropology and sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID). His research examines extractive industries in postcolonial Africa, materiality and mining labor, and digital economies in the Global South.

Matthieu Bolay, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Matthieu Bolay is a social anthropologist and a postdoctoral researcher at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. He has expertise in the politics of extraction and his research lies at the crossroads of migration, labour, politics, technology and the law.

Lindsay Bell, University of Western Ontario

Lindsay Bell is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Western, Ontario in Canada. Situated at the intersection of linguistic and cultural anthropology, her research has largely focused on extractive industries in arctic countries.

How to Cite
Calvão, Filipe, Matthieu Bolay, and Lindsay Bell. 2021. “Dis/Connection Matters: Natural, Synthetic, and Digital: Introduction”. TSANTSA – Journal of the Swiss Anthropological Association 26 (June):7-17. https://doi.org/10.36950/tsantsa.2021.26.7680.