In this talk presented by the Speculative Life cluster, Rafico Ruiz will share his work on ‘slow disturbance’ as a research method that can capture the lasting effects of settler colonialism on land and the built environment. He will also make connections to his current book project on post-global warming ice and the creation of a ‘drift path theory’ to apprehend environmental phenomena through their dissolution.
From the late nineteenth through most of the twentieth century, the evangelical Protestant Grenfell Mission in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, created a network of hospitals, schools, orphanages, stores, and industries with the goal of bringing health and organized society to settler fisherfolk and Indigenous populations. This infrastructure also served to support resource extraction of fisheries off Labrador’s coast. In Slow Disturbance Rafico Ruiz engages with the Grenfell Mission to theorize how settler colonialism establishes itself through what he calls infrastructural mediation—the ways in which colonial lifeworlds, subjectivities, and affects come into being through the creation and maintenance of infrastructures. Drawing on archival documents, maps, interviews with municipal officials, teachers, and residents, as well as his field photography, Ruiz shows how the mission’s infrastructural mediation—from its attempts to restructure the local economy to the aerial surveying and mapping of the coastline—responded to the colony’s environmental conditions in ways that expanded the bounds of the settler frontier. By tracing the mission’s history and the mechanisms that enabled its functioning, Ruiz complicates understandings of mediation and infrastructure while expanding current debates surrounding settler colonialism and extractive capitalism.
Rafico Ruiz is currently the Associate Director of Research at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. He is the author of Slow Disturbance: Infrastructural Mediation on the Settler Colonial Resource Frontier (DUP, 2021), and the co-editor, with Melody Jue, of Saturation: An Elemental Politics (DUP, 2021). He is completing a manuscript, Phase State Earth: The End Media of Ice, on the disrupted phase transitions of ice under the conditions of global warming.