skip to content

Department of Social Anthropology


The Sesame, the Drought, and the Index: Sensing Agrarian Environments Through Weather Insurance

Dr Caroline Schuster School of Archaeology and Anthropology (Australian National University)

Based in the agrarian worlds of commercial sesame farming in northern Paraguay where insurance companies are now selling weather derivatives to poor farmers, this talk explores multiple overlapping kinds of speculation in a multispecies, capitalist, and troubled landscape. Parametric insurance is triggered by certain weather conditions, which raises questions about the limits of survivability for human-crop relations. Sensing technologies – including satellite rainfall data, telecommunications infrastructures, meteorological data from local weather stations, and app-based forecasting data – generate this grid, which monitors and mobilizes the environments of niche cereals. Building outward from financialised agrarian worlds, this talk offers an anthropological interrogation of how the weather index is created as a ‘sense ecology,’ and how atmospheres of data are mobilized for speculative gain. Crucially, an anthropological perspective on weather sensors and the environments that they monitor reveals alternatively generative grids with their own sense ecologies: namely, genealogical grids of kinship that suffer and that respond when finance fails in its own mutual obligations.   

Friday, 29 October, 2021 - 11:00 to 12:45
Event location: 
Online - by email invitation