#UCUstrike zine 2019

I’m one and a half years into my first lectureship, and already on my second UCU strike. Towards the end of the last strike, we talked about making a student facing strike zine, so I’ve set out to make one. Hopefully there will be more to follow. Many thanks to my colleagues and students for edits, and many thanks to Gail Davies for additional resource links. You can download the zine here.

More soon! x



Notes from the “Political Ecologies of the Far Right” Conference

This weekend, I attended the “Political Ecologies of the Far Right” conference at Lund University. I was very excited to be in Sweden for the first time (I visited both Lund and Malmö), and to meet people who were working on the increasingly explicit fascist tendencies all over the world. One of my reasons for attending was a concern about the increasing normalisation of far right narratives in the UK, especially in creative circles that considered themselves on the left. Ecology features largely in many creative projects, and with the current environmental and political crisis, people have turned to some quite disconcerting ideas. This is also evident in conversations with colleagues and PhD student who I have met at conferences, and who seem not to notice that some of the materials which they are enthusiastically embracing, contain some rather problematic statements and theoretical lineages. This was also what I presented on.

Given my concern, the conference was interesting in its occasional replication of this pattern. Teaching on a module on histories and philosophies of Geography especially (with my colleague Matt Tillotson), it was in fact quite worrying how many speakers seemed to divorce their topic from their theory. By this I mean: 1) basing their analyses on theories that are normally associated with environmental determinism and fascism (e.g. Heidegger, Conrad, Schmitt, Malthus, Parenti), without commenting on this type of theory as a basis, and 2) grotesquely emptying out concepts such as intersectionality of their political remit (e.g. by ignoring race, gender etc). This could not be put down to the lack of experience of the speakers – they were relatively senior academics. Colleagues who attended other sessions also reported on the replication of issues such as male presenters’ longing for a heteronormative fantasy land (along the lines of “women – be nicer to men, or else men will turn to fascism”).

Overall, the conference was quite an interesting mix. It was very obviously lovingly organised by a committee made up of different groups. We were warned that things might not run as smoothly, because they did not expect this many people to work on the topic, and to be able to come. Although there were some organisational hiccups, I did not experience these as unpleasant. The conference dinner and after-party at Smälands, the ‘misfit’ fraternity of Lund University was a great way of getting a sense of the local university and activist landscape. We admired that they even had their own branded beer! There was also a permanent Antifa stall that had free stickers, Swedish confectionery and, most importantly, Club Mate bottles. One thing I am not so sure about is the integration of a large number of Skype presentations. More than half of the Skype speakers did not show up, so entire sessions had to be cancelled or moved, and sometimes there was just one in-person speaker on the panel, making conversation between panellists impossible. I know that many speakers chose Skype presentations due to environmental impact, but it did severely hinder communication. Having said that, I really enjoyed a virtual performance lecture by Jade Montserrat on Blackness and British rural spaces.

Image: still from Jade Montserrat’s performance lecture “Hyper-belongings: A sense of place”

There were several parallel streams outside of the keynotes. This makes it difficult to describe an overall picture of the discourse, as I can only report back on the sessions that I attended. What I took away from the conference was, first of all, a great diversity of approaches and opinions, in terms of what people understand as anti-fascism (people were much clearer on what constitutes fascism). People had clashing opinions on race and environmentalism; on how some seemingly disparate groups overlap, and over which concerns; or on who should do what kind of labour and with whom. I have tried to summaries these issues at the end of the post.

Mathias Wåg presenting on the Swedish far right

Despite the disagreements – at least in most cases – quite a few presenters and audience members continued discussions afterwards – sometimes the next day or the day after, after some thinking and cooling off. It felt like people learned a lot from each other, including myself: about their blind spots, about something they had not been familiar with, or about other peoples distress that they had not taken into consideration. In fact, there were many moments were people discovered shocking facts about institutions, people, theories or businesses they had come to perceive as neutral or beneficial.

“I cover up Nazi propaganda”

I will now try to pull together some themes that I picked up at the conference. You may also want to check out the #pefr2019 hashtag on Twitter for spontaneous reflections and a greater diversity of voices.

1) Appropriations of left and even decolonial terminology by the far right. Not only does environmentalism have both left and right wing roots, but its present is also shaped by these influences. There are neo-Nazi organic farmers, vegans and conservation activists, as well as anti-capitalism activists. Journalist and activist Mathias Wåg specifically singled out the appropriation of the term ‘activist’ by the far right. In a different presentation, Kai Bosworth argued that left and right are united by a ‘Romantic anti-capitalism’. In addition, the far right continues to make claims to White indigeneity, and even makes alliances with some indigenous leaders – or at least communicates with them about tactics. Here also a special note to senior (male and female) academics: do not use arguments about the ‘coloniality’ or ‘heteronormativity’ of gender and sexual relations to hit on precariously employed or unemployed junior academics/PhD students.

2) Anti-fascism, environmentalism and race: Following on from the point above, presenters pointed out how far right environmentalism isn’t an aberration, but continues existing White environmentalist ideals. This was especially apparent in former colonies such as NZ and the US where progressive interventions were resisted that would have endangered the colonial feel (e.g. through vegetation) of a place, or would have opened environmentalism to people of colour. There was heated debate around extinction rebellion: do accusations of Whiteness help UK environmentalism do some much needed work, or do these accusations obscure the work of environmentalists of colour?

3) The normalisation of fascism: This was a very significant concern. From many presentation it was evident how far right thinking is evident in anything from corporate social responsibility to UN Sustainable Development Goals. Presenters marked on its uncanny relationship with neoliberalism and its language. As much as public institutions were seen as under attack, they were often also seen as key culprits of using and communication far right ideas (e.g. hostile environment, Prevent in the UK; banning of protests or anti-fascist organisations in US). In addition, there were concerns about creatives and academics and their lack of criticality regarding fascist and colonial rhethoric (the Dark Mountain manifesto was named as an example several times, as were recent films such as Arcadia).

4) Fascism and capitalism intersections: In addition to the above issues around state institutions, the reliance of capitalism on the nation state was also noted, and the use of myth to keep up with treats to both the nation and capitalism. The ideology of capitalism itself was linked to fascist Social Darwinist ideas, including the reliance on war and inequality as a means to strengthen its hold. Again, due to capitalism’s normalisation and pervasiveness, it is difficult to attack. Further, several presenters showed financial links between fascist groups, and wealthy individual and corporate donors. Another thing that was mentioned was the fact that fascism can be both capitalist and anti-capitalist at the same time, whether genuinely or disingenuously so.

5) The Global nature of fascism: people presented case studies from all over the world, whether it was the UK, Brazil, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Germany, India, Pakistan, US, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia China etc. Everywhere, the far right is growing stronger. While presenters also gave hopeful examples or counter-action, the sheer statistics felt rather apocalyptic. Again, links to capitalism were made, and its ways of protecting itself. People also wondered how fascists were interlinked internationally.

6) How to organise: here, it was important that there was a large contingent of activists present, including break out meetings with activist groups. The obvious resources were labour activism (even the UCU strikes were mentioned), but other resources, especially directed at academics, were mentioned. Anti-fascist activist and journalist Mathias Wåg, for example, called for academics to work more closely with journalists – sharing data as well as ways to communicate better to a larger audience.

Apparently, there will be a follow-up conference in about two years time. Keep an eye out for updates!

“Decolonise STEM” symposium notes (also: please don’t deport my colleague!)

A few weeks ago, I attended a Decolonise STEM symposium at UCL (videos available on their website soon, minus the Q&As). It was a great event, passionately and sensitively put together by a collective of concerned undergraduate and postgraduate scientists. It was useful both in terms of practical guidance, but also in terms of understanding the political and philosophical issues that continue to lead to problems in science teaching and research. The impact of these issues was made painfully apparent by the threat of deportation that one of the speakers, Furaha Asani (University of Leicester), received a couple of days after her presentation. Since then, she has made a video about her situation, has also spoken to the press, and has protested the framing of her situation by the press. She is currently looked after by the UCU and some legal support.

There are a number of interrelated issues that participants brought up in their presentations. (Unfortunately, I have lost my notes, but I will try to reconstruct the debates from memory, and rectify errors once the talks are up on the website.) The biggest issue was the self-professed objectivity of science that does not allow any space for racism, sexism, ableism etc. This strongly contrasted with the speakers’ data – Nuzhat Tabassum offered some depressing statistics about the non-existent “pipeline” from student to staff – as well as their experiences of both overt racism and microaggressions, whether it was BME researchers being asked what they were doing in the sciences, or BME researchers being excluded from teams (much of science is team based work). Most of the speakers were women who were struggling with a double penalty in the supposedly neutral science world. Sometimes class and disability added to the representational burden. Archaeologist Alex Fitzpatrick, for example, was told that she would normally be a research object – why would she want to do archaeology?

The perception of neutrality became replicated with field sites. Whether these were outer space or on-goingly colonised territories, field sites were regarded as neutral and naturally open to White scientists’ research. At least two of the speakers also commented on the naming of sites and objects, whether these were indigenous Australian lands or objects in space such as the hugely inappropriate Ultima Thule (see presentation by Divya M. Persaud). Scientists who used the indigenous names or critiqued racist descriptions were either ‘corrected’ or regarded as unnecessarily difficult. The violence done through both racist naming and indigenous erasure was regarded as ‘non-rational’ and emotional.

Further, speakers and participants felt that science lecturers regarded science as a European rather than a global project, with ran across fields from computer science through to archaeology. White people go out and do stuff/teach to others, while the rest of the world receives. No mention, for example, of the Middle East effectively saving Europe’s ass after the disastrous Middle Ages. No mention of Black scientists whose work was taken over but not recognised by others, or who were barred from obtaining university degrees. The fact that racialised people are seen as receivers was further emphasised by Arianne Shahvisi who pointed to the intensely racist landscape of the NHS, both in terms of staff and patient treatment under an on-going ‘hostile environment’ – which, for her, is as old as the NHS in 1948.

Image: Slides from Furaha Asani’s presentation at Decolonise STEM

A key question was also how to do science with ‘decolonial’ ethics in mind. After all, as Christine Yao emphasised in her keynote (citing Tuck and Yang), decolonisation should not just remain a metaphor. Andrea Jimenez, for example, lamented that it is really difficult to do ethical research in a university landscape that demands certain kinds of ‘products’ from the researcher. Furaha Asani provided practical guidance on how to be a good ally (as audience, support, as aggressor willing to unlearn) and how to check your privilege and responsibility. Syed Mustafa Ali provided some very detailed guidance for “decolonial computing”. He, first of all, discussed the coloniality of computing, both in terms of its history and  present power inequalities (you can find his presentation here). He pointed to the impulses that led to the creation of computing, e.g. it was tied up with war efforts while many countries were still fighting to decolonise. He showed how computing is still used for surveillance of racialised Others, how developing countries may be forced to host more data centres, and how programming languages are shaped by racism (and sexism). Decolonial computing, for him, would be computing from the margin, that does not just accept/use existing ways of programming, but contests it. In addition, Ali recommended the following:

“Practitioners and researchers adopting a decolonial computing perspective are required, at a minimum, to do the following: Firstly, consider their geo-political and body-political orientation when designing, building, researching or theorizing about computing phenomena; and secondly, embrace the ‘decolonial option’ as an ethics, attempting to think through what it might mean to design and build computing systems with and for those situated at the peripheries of the world system, informed by the epistemologies located at such sites, with a view to undermining the asymmetry of local-global power relationships and effecting the ‘decentering’ of Eurocentric / West-centric universals.” (Ali, 2016)

What can geographers (human AND physical) take away from this? Some recommendations:

  • Don’t pretend nothing is happening. Science has never been neutral.
  • Historically and geographically contextualise your subject, especially when it includes history of science. For example, I include an overview of European science in relation to science around the world (e.g. the Renaissance-Middle East relation, BBC Science and Islam as an example).
  • Don’t use the argument that ‘science has always been international’ as an excuse to not make changes to your teaching and teaching materials
  • Cite beyond the people you know, and look at what’s going on in your field as much as you can
  • Educate yourself about the struggles your colleagues and students might be going through, and support them in non-patronising ways.
  • Question scientific framing and related history/geography e.g. taxonomy, naming, purpose, competition
  • Question privileges of access, whether this is in terms of field sites, jobs or funding
  • Look at the ethics of research and relations with research partners: what are the power inequalities in this project? Can you do something to change this (change funder, change your research partner’s status/deal)
  • Look at publishing ethics: is the author hierarchy fair? How can colleagues from less well resourced countries be supported in an unequal publishing world?
  • Most importantly: do listen and unlearn as much as you can from how you were taught, but don’t demand intellectual and emotional labour from others to make your curriculum less White-centric. Go to relevant events – they are taking place all over the country. It’s literally your job!

More points to follow. There will also be at least one “Decolonise STEM” themed session on physical geography at the next RGS-IBG conference in London. The conference theme is “borders”, and it is led by Professor Uma Kothari. Stay tuned!

Open Letter: Urgent Call to Action to Help Tashpolat Tiyip

Image source: Living Otherwise

Many thanks to Mahmood N. Khan for posting this urgent request. There is more information on this campaign on the Amnesty International site, also about other persecuted Uyghurs in China. This is the open letter from the Association of American Geographers (AAG) – please sign. I hope there will be a similar statement by the RGS-IBG soon.

Urgent Call to Action to Help Tashpolat Tiyip

The AAG calls upon the scientific community to show support for Dr. Tashpolat Tiyip. Dr. Tiyip, former president of Xinjiang University and geography professor, is suspected to be at risk of execution in China as time runs out on the two-year reprieve of his death sentence.

Please read our letter below detailing Dr. Tiyip’s circumstances and requested intervention, and consider adding your signature in support. Also, we ask you to share the sign-on letter widely with your colleagues to strengthen the voice of the scientific community in speaking up for academic freedom and human rights.

It is of utmost importance for us to reach out by October 19th.

To see the most current letter with the list of signatories, visit bit.ly/TashpolatTiyip. The list will be updated daily. For questions, contact onlinepetition@aag.org.

Tashpolat Tiyip online letter

Reflections on Annie Le Brun’s Sadean Materialism

I first came across the writer Annie Le Brun while looking for literature on Aimé Césaire. In her books Pour Aimé Césaire (1994) and Statue Cou Coupé (1996), she defends her fellow surrealist author’s work from being taken off the French core curriculum, to be replaced by créolité literature – a movement which criticises and tries to move beyond racial essentalism. Le Brun effectively dismisses this literary movement as postmodern levelling (she really does not like post structuralism), employed to disguise racism. The fact that she is a white woman intervening in a debate between ‘négre’ and ‘créole’ identifying writers leaves her in a difficult position, and often her accusations feel out of place, even when her observations are appropriate in places (some are definitely problematic). While I appreciate some of her provocations, including the insults hurled towards academics, I end up disagreeing with her on many points, including her disdain for identity politics, religion/spirituality, technology, or pretty much anything she considers post-modern. Although she would probably hate this comparison (as well as the medium of the internet-based blog), my experience of reading her is very much like reading Hannah Arendt: both authors share a hatred of anything ‘mass’, often resulting in a problematic ‘genius worship’, which often borders on elitism and disregards ordinary acts of resistance. Despite their drawbacks, in my view, I appreciate both writers for their sharp examinations of ideology, especially fascism.

So far, only two of Le Brun’s many books have been translated into English, ‘Reality Overload’ (a rather unimaginative critique of technology and gender relations) and ‘Sade – A Sudden Abyss’. I do recommend the book on D.A.F. de Sade as a useful set of provocations to well-meaning materialists, both of the historical/dialectical and the new materialist kind. In my reading on materialism, I keep coming across de Sade references, whether through the work of Georges Bataille or Maurice Blanchot. While most people primarily (and probably rightfully) associate de Sade with misogyny and authoritarianism (interestingly, Le Brun insists that de Sade celebrates the ‘futurity of the female form in characters such as Léonore and Justine’!), scatological obsession and bad taste, I also get the attraction to philosophers. However, approaching the original texts can take some effort, not even so much in terms of feminist and aesthetic sensibilities, but in terms of pure tediousness: they are literally a crap read. All of the sexual clichés are present, united in incredibly bad writing – although apparently not without deeper meaning. It feels a lot like slogging through François RabelaisGargantua and Pantagruel (the book that was brilliantly used against Stalin’s dialectical materialist doctrine by Mikhail Bakhtin). Annie Le Brun would probably say that postmodernism cynicism and relativism has robbed me of the ability to sense the genius of de Sade’s writing, although she herself admits about The 120 Days of Sodom (1785): “Here we have a book which begins with all the pomp of a historical novel, and which ends with the laconic formulas of simple subtraction.”

I guess, more so than de Sade’s work itself, what I do appreciate is the diverse ways in which writers and artists who have felt an affinity with de Sade have used his work.  In his film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, Pier Paolo Pasolini stages de Sade’s casual and excessive abuse as a metaphor for capitalism. Georges Bataille, by contrast, draws on de Sade’s methods in his accusations against materialism: that no materialist has used materialism to its full potential. Maurice Blanchot sees in de Sade the simultaneous desire and impossibility to destroy nature – while God is easy to denounce – and even regards de Sade as the perfect writer, since his prolific output drowns out his overall message to such a degree that the reader primarily ends up experiencing the materiality of language. Blanchot considers this a liberation of thought from value. Amusingly, all of these people are dismissed throughout Le Brun’s book. I don’t think Le Brun even mentions Simone de Beauvoir who wrote the introduction to one of the editions to The 120 Days of Sodom – an author she already panned as a ‘feminist imposter’ in texts such as Lâchez tout. Le Brun basically ends up criticising other authors for not going far enough – or misunderstanding de Sade altogether. In her opinion, de Sade has been misjudged as an annoying, but provocative mad person, or as a simple attacker of sexual morals. She further finds that de Sade neither rages against nature, nor cares about ‘noble’ projects such as opposing capitalism. So what, according to Le Brun, is de Sade actually about?

The short answer: liberating nihilism (the title is a bit of a give-away). Le Brun and de Sade both deeply despise hypocrisy, especially from people who consider themselves virtuous. For them, this desire links to the projection of ideology onto the material world – whether these are fascist appeals to ‘natural law’, or religious ideas of the cosmos as a model for vice or virtue. Camille Naish, in the foreword to Sade – A Sudden Abyss, refers to this practice as ‘ideological ‘stripping’’. Indeed, Le Brun appreciates de Sade for taking both atheism and materialism to what she considers their only appropriate conclusions: as radical tools against ideology, including supposedly utopian socialist ideas (at some point, she calls this de Sade’s ‘atheist machine’). As de Sade himself puts it: “Nature, who is stranger than the moralists portray her, is constantly cascading through the dams their policies prescribe for her…” Le Brun even finds that,“from a strictly spectacular point of view, Sade’s humour corresponds to a theatrical depiction of the utter collapse of any form of representation.” This is interesting, as the collapse of representation or utter immediacy is often associated with totalitarian and, in particular, fascist ambitions, such as large scale mobilisations of affect or appeals to dumb forms of ‘natural law’. This is what the writer Bertolt Brecht tried to act against, yet Le Brun describes his attempts at “distancing” as “replacing one system of representation by another”. Here, Le Brun argues that fascists actually don’t do away with representation, but use it to run away from a reality they are not ready to face. This way, they always fail to adopt de Sade, despite his obvious appeal.

What is also not entirely clear is how de Sade makes nature both an object of intense rage and an almost non-existent object. On the one hand you have statements such as this one:

‘In all that we do, there are only offended idols and creatures, but Nature is not one of them, and Nature is the one I really want to outrage; I would like to upset its plans, to foil its proceedings, to stop the orbit of the stars, to disrupt the planets that float in space, to destroy all that serves it, to protect all that harms it, in a word, to insult the core of Nature; and I am incapable of this.’

But you also have statements such as the following one:

“Nothing is born, nothing essentially perishes, everything is but an action or reaction of matter; there are the waves of the sea which rise and fall within the mass of waters; there is perpetual motion, which has been and always will be, and whose principal agents we become, without ever suspecting it, by reason of our virtues and our vices. It is an infinite variety; thousands upon thousands of different bits of substances, appearing in all kinds of forms, annihilating themselves before becoming manifest in other forms, subsequently to dissolve and form again.”

Indeed, Le Brun starts off by pointing to de Sade’s obsession with nature as a ‘physical immensity’, while maintaining that he, in the end, ‘does not grant it any value whatsoever’. As she puts it: “the idea of nature is already neutralised before it has even been formulated, by the vigour of the motion which precedes and exceeds it.” This view maps onto both Le Brun and de Sade’s preoccupation with nothingness. In fact, the book ends with (apologies for spoilers!):

“Wandering about Paris, the whole day long, I experienced an intense feeling of having no more limits, of not being in this world, of actually being the world or rather, of sinking into everything that I was not.” (…) “How could I not be grateful to him for having shown me that within every forceful thought lies and intense way to be nothing?”

This seems to solve the odd connection between power and nothingness: one mode is the flip side of the other. Throughout the book, there are some fascinating passages which seem to prefigure, if I may draw the comparison, “new materialism”: “an ensemble where everything is representative, people and places alike, objects and words, even Aline’s little spaniel, Folichon…” (…) “the ‘assemblage of movements’ which constitute life, according to Sade.” Everything is united by the same matter-energy set-up.

To me, what is actually more interesting is the theme of “the banality of evil”. Almost sounding like Hannah Arendt again, Le Brun notes how the “continuing fascination exercised by Sade” lies in the location of his work in the “indeterminate region between monstrosity and banality.” To me, as a geographer, the arguments that Le Brun makes about this sound a lot like a critique of environmental determinism and related dodgy forms of organicism.

“It is certainly because he refuses, with all his might, the traditional allegiance of the organic and the spiritual that Sade simultaneously allows himself the redoubtable privilege of conceiving what goes on inside him in terms of earthquakes, the orbit of the sun, volcanic eruptions or continental drifts. Nothing could be more monstrous, since humanity is thereby confused with a possible form of energy, and since man becomes one mere probability of being, no better than another. But also, by the same token, nothing could be more banal: even if we have forgotten it, wasn’t everybody’s childhood haunted by a violent impression of physical dominion on a universal scale?”

This sentiment is also echoed in de Sade’s character Léonore’s exclamation: “Let us study nature; let us follow her to her furthermost boundaries; let us even work to place them further still; but never let us prescribe boundaries to nature.” In both quotations, the many claims to biological support for ideologies, most brilliantly analysed by Donna V. Jones in her book The Racial Discourses of Life Philosophy, appear to be refuted by describing humans as unstable, inorganic matter-energy infrastructure. At the same time, such statements are not without problems. While such argumentation may work against dodgy vitalist claims, it also sets up a problematic mutual exclusion of the spiritual with materialism. As Erica Lagalisse writes in her new book on Occult Features of Anarchism, this apparent incommensurability is often used to relegate the spiritual outside of the “West” or “modernity” or usually both. And it is not just racialised but gendered. In fact, Le Brun makes many problematic claims about universality that would horrify postcolonial scholars (interestingly, as she writes in Statue Cou Coupé, Le Brun sees Sadean materialism embodied in the figure and actions of Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture!).

Somewhat surprisingly, towards the end of the book, Le Brun suggests that de Sade, whom most people consider the absolute opposite of ethics, in fact puts forward an ‘ethics of perturbation’. By this, she means that de Sade, in his dissatisfaction with “discover[ing] man on the very brink of what negates him”. His characters “acquire, rather, a passion for momentum which suggests a perturbation of the subject, a perturbation on which the subject is actually based.” She further argues that “only perturbation permits transition to another speed. But which speed? The speed we never stop losing, the speed of the imagination, which gives man an accurate idea of time and space he has a right to claim for his desires. And that is the beginning of a moral.” Again, this may strike us as rather odd: self-assured assertion of time and space as an ethics. More modestly, she phrases it as “the relative degree of consciousness which allows one to join, or not join, in the workings of the world, and to participate in it.” She stresses that this is impossible without “some violence being done to the order of things, for only thus will we understand it”. So, how do we participate in the world with a ‘relative degree of consciousness’ without representation? And: isn’t this how we are participating in the world anyway?

What I have taken away from this book so far is that it is a fascinating ‘devil’s advocate’ position that tries to push against exuberant, but empty revolutionary claims and dumb appeals to morals. By taking an extreme position, however, it not only risks using caricatures, but, worse, fails to remain sensitive to how certain ideologies such as secularity (see the work of Erica Lagalisse and Claire Blencowe) have become so naturalised that they become false ‘neutral’ foundations or extremes. As pointed out earlier, the book is full of contradictions, some of which temporarily become resolved, only to reassert themselves later. In some ways, I find these contradictions productive, even if I have to keep cringing (including over constant referring to ‘man’ instead of ‘human, thought this may be a translation issue). For example, take this quote: “By means of this passkey of commotion, Sade brings the different world into communication and returns us to the moment of the universe. At the same time, he suggests the one means of not letting ourselves not get carried away by it.” As de Sade’s character Léonore goes on to describe this ‘means’: “as long as we submit nature to our pretty views, as long as we chain her to our loathsome prejudices, confusing them with her own voice, we shall never learn to know her: who knows if we should not run ahead of her to hear what she is trying to say?”

To me this resonates with both problematic and positive connotations. Problematic, because implies that all forms of representation conceal some sort of natural ‘truth’, and positive, because it tries to move against moralising appeals to nature that keep getting hurled, for example, against ‘queer’ people all over the world. To appreciate some of these double edged ‘means’ does not mean that I agree with them or stop being critical of them or that I think that you always need to take ‘the good with the bad’. Rather, examples such as this book help me think about my own blindspots in my theorisations, especially when it comes to ‘solutions’ that initially seem like a good ‘antidote’ to something or other. In this sense, Le Brun’s ‘ideological stripping’ works: it does less so for the dismantling of an ideology to show how fake it is. Instead, it works as a reality check for their own ‘noble’ ideas.

It also works, in my opinion, to draw attention to the key issue within materialism: the fine line between deindividuation – the main strategy of materialism – and dehumanisation. As many critics, from Sylvia Wynter to Juanita Sundberg, have pointed out, both “old” and “new” materialisms often fail to remain sensitive to human inequality or needs in their quest for better models of society. The work of D.A.F. de Sade is perhaps the best illustration of radical materialism without attention to dehumanisation. Current experimentation with materialism and ‘inhumanism’ is exploring exactly this tension right now, and taking Le Brun’s ‘Sadean materialism’ less as a model, but as a problem could be useful in terms of evaluating our own provocations. Since many recent materialist experiments have been disconcertingly appreciated and attacked across the political/theoretical spectrum (see, for example, the Paul Kingsnorth/Arcadia controversy), it is important to develop a sensitivity to the many dimensions of our experimentation, and, especially, to how they might translate into material enactments down the line.

DEEP TRASH Eco Trash 19 April 2019

This event – and others in this series – may be of interest to readers. Apologies for late posting! There are more events coming up as part of the Ecofutures Festival.

Friday 19 April 2019
presented as part of Ecofutures Festival
at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
20:00-02:00 (last entry midnight)


The legendary East London exhibition-cum-performance club night Deep Trash is back! Teaming up with the 3-week festival EcoFutures, Deep Trash delves into our present day ecological dystopia to explore alternative futures for our planet and all the diverse creatures within it.

Expect to experience both present and future visions of our ecological landscapes in a variety of utopic possibilities and dystopic realities. Sticky encounters with hybrid creatures, antidotes to overconsumption in a technofuturist dimension and a unique living incarnation of Whitechapel’s ‘Fatberg’ will fill up the rooms of this immersive Eco Trash experience. You might also come across some mystic papayas, acts of shared ecolove and ecosex, BDSM technoshamanist rituals against the current ecocide, queer counteractions to the Anthropocene, Afrofuturistic sonic healing and the sacred cleansing of our inner (yoni) climate.

Dressing up (or undressing) is highly encouraged.

Deep Trash is a bi-annual, one-night-only event featuring live, uncensored and challenging performances, installations, one-to-one encounters, artworks, visuals and videos spread over 2 floors in 3 rooms by over 40 artists from all over the world all under the same roof in East London’s legendary Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

The venue will be open from 8pm, with a 1-hour curated screening on loop. The event will also include an exhibition, interactive and immersive installations and all-night performances that address sexuality, gender and race in relation to the environment and ecology.

DJ set by Moonbow (Siren collective) will fuse organic and sci fi sounds of cyberpunk films and anime. Followed by Karen Wilkins (Opulence), infecting the dancefloor withdeep, rhythmic, percussive techno grooves till the end of the night. In the basement, Smaragda will get you dancing to the latest pussytronic/queertonic dance beats around midnight.


Arise Amazons! / Danielle Imara / Eunjung Kim & Burong (曾不容) / Fallon Mayanja / intimate animals / Joseph Morgan Schofield / Miss HerNia / Niya B / Tom Coates / Veneration (Victoria W & Nicole B)


Adam Seid Tahir / Anna Nolda Nagele / Barbara Gamper / Cecilia Cavalieri / Craestor / Dakota Gearhart / Eliana Otta / Erik Thörnqvist / Francisco Navarrete Sitja / Helena Cardow / Intimate Jelly / Izzy Bravo / Jo Pester / Julia Oldham / Karl Munstedt / Karine Bonneval / Landon Newton / María Papi / Meghan Moe Beitiks / Nonhuman Nonsense / Nuoran Zhang / Romily Alice Walden / Shvemy Sewing Cooperative / Zaneta Zukalova


Karen Wilkins (Opulence) / Moonbow (Siren/NTS Radio) / Smaragda

Event Information

Tickets: http://workersplaytime.net/TICKETS.htm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/471231956747426/

General Information

Deep Trash: https://cuntemporary.org/category/projects/deep-trash/
Ecofutures Festival: https://cuntemporary.org/category/projects/ecofutures/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/DeepTrashClub
IG: https://www.instagram.com/deeptrashclub
#DeepTrash #EcoTrash


CUNTemporary Press
Arts | Feminism | Queer

Venue Information

Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
42-44 Pollard Row, London, E2 6NB

Arts Council Logo

CFP: Political Ecologies of the Far Right, Lund University

Call for Contributions

Lund University, 15-17 November 2019


An interdisciplinary academic-activist conference organized by the Human Ecology Division at Lund University in collaboration with CEFORCED at Chalmers University

Far-right political parties, ideologies and social movements are increasingly exercising influence across the world. At the same time, ecological issues, such as climate change, deforestation, land use change, biodiversity loss, and toxic waste are intensifying in their urgency. What happens when the two phenomena meet? How, when and why do they intersect? How are party and non-party sectors of the far right mobilizing ecological issues and discourses to their advantage, whether through championing or rejecting environmentalist claims? What are the ecological underpinnings of far-right politics today? This understudied topic forms the basis of this interdisciplinary conference on the political ecologies of the far right.

From Trump and Bolsonaro to the Sweden Democrats and AfD, a radical anti-environmentalism is most often championed by the contemporary far right. This stance resonates with a conspiratorial suspicion of the state, science, elites, globalism, and supposed processes of moral, cultural and social decay. This is most clearly pronounced in climate change denialism and defense of fossil fuels, which have undergone a global resurgence in recent years. But the same position is also articulated in, for example, anti-vegetarianism or opposition to renewables. How can we understand the causes of far right rejection of environmentalism and environmental concerns where it occurs? What broader ideologies, interests, psychologies, histories, narratives and perceptions does it reflect? What might the implications be for ecological futures if far-right parties continue to amass power? How can the climate justice and other environmental movements and anti-racist, anti-fascist activism converge and collaborate?

On the other hand, it is an inconvenient truth that there is a long-standing shadowy legacy of genealogical connections between environmental concern and far-right thought, from links between conservation and eugenics in the early national parks movement in the US, to dark green currents within Nazism. Hostility to immigration informed by Malthusian thinking and regressive forms of patriotic localism have often surfaced in Western environmentalism. Today, the mainstream environmental movement is more usually aligned with leftist, progressive policies, yet the conservative streak that always lies dormant in overly romanticized conceptions of landscape and nature, or fears about over-population, lie ripe for mobilization in new unholy alliances between green and xenophobic, nativist ideologies. In what forms does this nexus appear around the world today and with what possible consequences? What frames, linkages and concerns are central to eco-right narratives? How can environmental thinking ward off the specter of green nationalism?

How to apply:

The conference aims to bring together not only scholars working at the interface of political ecology and far right studies but also activists from environmental, anti-fascist and anti-racist organizations and movements. We believe there is still much work to do to bring together these often separate strands of scholar and activist work together, and much opportunity for collaboration, mutual learning, and networking. This conference aims to hold a space for such engagement.

Scholars: We welcome contributions from all disciplines (geography, anthropology, sociology, history, literature, political science, cultural studies, sustainability studies, STS, philosophy, art history, media studies, communication studies, et cetera). Apart from individual papers, we also welcome suggestions for panels and workshops.

Activists: At least one day of the conference (Sunday – TBC) will focus on activist practices, with an emphasis on sharing and developing ideas and synergies between green and anti-fascist thinking and working, and on ways to collectively prevent a scenario of ‘ecological crisis meets fascist populism’. We invite activist groups and individuals to submit proposals for workshops, discussions, and presentations.

In line with recent calls for radical emissions reductions at Swedish universities, we encourage prospective participants to consider other travel options than aviation if possible. We are also open to presentations via video link.

Submission of abstracts: Please send abstracts (max. 350 words) to pefr@hek.lu.se by Thursday 16th May. There are a limited number of travel bursaries available (we will prefer non-aviation means where possible) for those who are most in need of support. Please indicate in your application whether you would like to be considered.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • climate denialism/climate change, fossil fuels and the far right
  • anti-environmentalism of far right
  • linking environmental, anti-fascist, anti-racist activism and social movements
  • ‘cultural marxism’, conspiracy theories and the environment
  • gender, sexuality, the far right and environment (eco, hegemonic or industrial masculinities, anti-feminism, normative heterosexuality, patriarchy)
  • renewable energy, vegan/vegetarianism, animal rights, agriculture, toxic waste, land use change, biodiversity extinction, pollution etc and the far right
  • environmental science, epistemology and the far right
  • racism, xenophobia, nature, conservation, ecology, wilderness and far right
  • whiteness as/and ‘endangered’ species
  • scenarios of a far-right ecological future
  • religion, ecology and the far right
  • populism, authoritarianism, neoliberalism, alt-right, far right
  • greenwashing, industry links, capital and funding for the far right and links with environmental issues
  • far right narratives on development, progress, and futures and their ecological conceptualization
  • environmental history of green ideas in far right politics
  • dark green histories and genealogies of environmentalism
  • infiltrations of and unhappy alliances between the contemporary far right and environmentalists
  • ecofascism, bio-nazism, green nationalism
  • psychologies, affects, emotions, private lives of the ecologies of the far right
  • historical legacies of ecologically unequal exchange and racial capitalism