HAU

Grading, gradients, degradation, grace
Part 1: Intensity and causality

Paul Kockelman

Abstract


This article has two overarching and intertwined themes. The first is the social and semiotic mediation of “comparative grounds”—in particular, the way people come to understand, and alter, the relative intensity of entities and events. The second is the social and semiotic mediation of “causal grounds”—in particular, the way people come to understand, and alter, the sequencing of events, or the channeling of forces. Focusing on the multiple processes that mediate people’s understandings of landslides in a Mayan village in highland Guatemala, it shows the ways causal and comparative grounds relate to physical forces and phenomenological experience, as much as to communicative practices and social conventions. More generally, though less explicitly, this article is about four topics that underlie the Anthropocene: “gradients” (the way qualities vary in their intensity over space and time, and the ways such variations relate to causal processes), “grading” (the ways agents assess and alter such intensities, and experience and intervene in causal processes), “degradation” (the ways highly valuable variations in qualitative intensities are lowered or lost), and “grace” (the way agents work to maintain gradients, care for those whose lives have been degraded, and value those agents who work and care in such ways).


Keywords


causality, commensuration, intensity, grading, degradation, scale, landslides, Anthropocene

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau6.2.022