Austin Lord

Anthropologist | Consultant | Visual Ethnographer 

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto, School of the Environment

Ph.D., Anthropology, Cornell University

Master of Environmental Science, Yale University


My  research examines questions of disaster and aftermath, water and energy, infrastructural politics, climate change and climate science, environmental justice, disaster risk reduction, environmental data, and the politics of risk and uncertainty  in Nepal and the greater Himalayan bioregion. My approach is informed by training in anthropology, critical disaster studies, science & technology studies, political ecology, environmental science, and studio art.

Currently, I am in the process of writing a book manuscript based on my PhD dissertation, titled "Vital Uncertainties: Disaster, Afterlives, and Change in the Langtang Valley." This ethnographic work draws on research conducted over a seven year period in the wake of the massive co-seismic avalanches that occurred in the Langtang Valley on April 25, 2015, during the 7.8 magnitude Gorkha Earthquake - taking over 300 lives and causing unthinkable levels of destruction. My research examines the ways in which the people of Langtang (the Langtangpas) worked to rebuild their lives while reckoning with overwhelming experiences of loss, disorientation, and uncertainty. 

In my work, I foreground the sociocultural and political importance of uncertainties in Langtangpa lives, before and after the disaster, examining uncertainty as a process of relating to the unknown that reflects a particular set of epistemological, ontological, ethical, and practical orientations. Disasters introduce unfamiliar and terrifying new experiences of uncertainty which can threaten our sense of place and our sense of self. In the wake of the Langtang Disaster, Langtangpas live with an array of vital uncertainties, some of which have been shaped by the 2015 disaster and some of which exceed it. Drawing from my research in Langtang, I explore the ways our subjectivities are shaped by the process of relating to the unknowns that shape our pasts, presents, and futures. We belong to our uncertainties: we work on them, and they work on us.

My scholarship is guided by a commitment to multimodal and collaborative processes of knowledge production that includes photography, mapmaking, ethnographic filmmaking, and the community-engaged archival work of the Langtang Memory Project. My teaching focuses on disaster, climate change, political ecology, environmental justice, international development, and the politics of risk and uncertainty.

This personal website showcases some of the my photographic work from the period 2006-2016 -- I am currently working on updating and reconfiguring the visual aspects of this site [as I work to reconfigure my life post-PhD and balance family commitments].

For the time being, to find more information and links to my published scholarship, please see GoogleScholar, ResearchGate, or Academia.edu. Thank you for your interest in my work.

Austin Lord

Anthropologist & Visual Ethnographer | Cornell University, Department of Anthropology | Yale Himalaya Initiative | Kathmandu, Nepal
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