Murky Evidence

Paulo Tavares

Nature has become a central space in which cultural and political rights are bound, and thus with increasing frequency and relevance, ecological systems have come to inhabit the courtrooms of national and transnational forums as potential witnesses of legal violations. As Earth enters into the legal arena as a disputed object, the scientific and documentary techniques employed to mediate its testimony appear as sites through which the construction of historical-political narratives is disputed. To follow the histories inscribed in murky earth samples extracted from the soils of environmental disaster zones, is to map out the messy assemblages of scientific practices, NGO advocacy, international law, and global geopolitics that gather around nature. Animated by a legal court, organic matter becomes a vibrant and talkative entity whose opaque speech calls for a radical universality according to which human and nonhuman rights are mutually constitutive and interdependent.

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