“Five Propositions” out on GeoCritique

Image source: GeoCritique

The newly redesigned GeoCritique has just published the five propositions that Anja Kanngieser and I delivered as a critique at the Anthropocene themed RGS-IBG 2015 conference in Exeter, UK. The propositions also represent an experiment in positioning ourselves not just in relation to Anthropocene discourse, but in terms of geography, race, gender etc. This is an on-going writing experiment, and we welcome critique.

RGS-IBG 2016 CFP: Parallel Institutions: models and realities, strategies and tactics, islands and archipelagos


Parallel Institutions: models and realities, strategies and tactics, islands and archipelagos

Session Convenors:
Angela Last (University of Glasgow)
Mireille Roddier (University of Michigan)

Existing and historical examples of parallel institutions represent a wide scope of intentions, scales, and formal organizations, from local commoning practices to the strategically planned duplication of state institutions in sight of a governmental overthrow (Roggero, 2010; Arendt, 1973) What they all share is a dissatisfaction with state institutions’ disenfranchisement of entire sections of population who fall outside of their stewardships. The origins of such alternative models of organization are thereby rooted in either the need to complement or to contest hegemonic institutions, particularly those delegating public services. More than self-help however, parallel institutions are also devised as alternatives, enabling new forms of commoning and experimentation with new imaginaries.

Parallel institutions can serve as means to diverging ends. On one end, they can be devised for eventual incorporation into the dominant system, bearing the risks of paving grounds for developments that will be subsequently recuperated. On the other, they are often inspired by emancipatory perspectives that could lead to autonomous forms of self-governance (Gordon Nembhard, 2014, Nelson, 2013). Accordingly, their relationship to the state varies from subservient and heteronomous to independent or even contentious, as do the responses of the state to such institutions—from embrace to outright violence, affecting the status of their legitimacy.

This session seeks to discuss parallel institutions that reclaim a radical spirit of experimentation in the service of alleviating dependence upon the state—not in the ideological pursuit of less governance, but in order to forestall the normalization of austerity measures. We are interested in both theoretical models and case studies that can expand our public imaginary. We specifically are looking to probe such topics as:

– the temporal evolutionary patterns of parallel institutions, from origin stories to institutionalization or extinction;
– the instrumental use of institutions towards emancipatory autonomy (Castoriadis);
– the spatial reification of parallel institutions, and their relationship to territory, global patterns of enclaves and archipelagos (Davis, 2008; Aureli, 2011), states of imagination (Newman and Clarke), as well as the exclusionary effects of communautarism (Harvey, 97);
– the specificity and influence of scale upon theoretical models, from community to society;
– the use of parallel institutions in political strategy versus as bottom-up tactic;
– the roles of cultural and academic institutions, as well as of artists and academics, in fostering counter-hegemonic activism from within a privileged, most institutionalized position (Mouffe, 2010);
– specific typology studies —both organizationally and spatially— such as the emergence of new schools, health institutions, taken factories, urban communes and rural hackerlands, etc.


Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1973)

Pier Vittorio Aureli, The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2011)

Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society (MIT Press, 1998)

Mike Davis, Daniel Monk, Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism (The New Press, 2008)

Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice (Penn State University Press, 2014)

David Harvey, “The New Urbanism and the Communitarian Trap,” Harvard Design Magazine (winter / spring 97)

Chantal Mouffe, “The Museum Revisited,” Art Forum (Summer 2010)

Alondra Nelson, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination (University of Minnesota Press, 2013)

Janet Newman and John Clarke, “States of Imagination,” Soundings (Summer 2014)

Gigi Roggero, “Five Theses on the Common,” Rethinking Marx: A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society (August 2010)

Anne Mariel Zimmermann, “State as Chimera Aid, Parallel Institutions, and State Power,” Comparative Politics (April 2013)

Instructions for Authors:
Please submit a paper proposal (250-300 words) along with a short biography to Angela.Last@glasgow.ac.uk and mroddier@umich.edu by February 14th.

Call For Papers Deadline

Guest talk at the New Centre for Research & Practice


On Monday, I gave a virtual guest lecture at the New Centre for Research & Practice. It was the first instalment of a seminar on ‘Global Politics of the Anthropocene‘, organised and taught by Carlos Amador. You can still join the remainder of the discussion, either as a ‘student’ (which enables you to join the discussions) or as a silent listener (‘audit’ option). The upcoming Monday events (UK time: 11pm – 1:30 am) include speakers across disciplines, including fellow Scottish academic Zoe Todd (Anthropology, University of Aberdeen).

The paper I had prepared was on Daniel Maximin‘s geopoetics, which focus on undoing hegemonic geopolitical images by utilising the geophysical. The talk also drew attention to the violence of academic knowledge production, including citation practices. Both themes, for me, relate very strongly to Anthropocene discourse, where attention to the colonial/imperialist dimensions of geophysical phenomena, as well as of research practices themselves, has been lacking.

Image source: New Centre for Research & Practice

RITA Seminar: Imagining Caribbean Future Spaces

Montserrat, The Pompeii of the Caribbean
Courthouse and former Employee, Plymouth, Monserrat. Image: Christopher Pillitz

I am honoured to be speaking on the Future Environmental Spaces panel at the upcoming RITA (Race in the Americas) seminar on Imagining Caribbean Future Spaces. My presentation ‘Apostropher L’Apocalypse’ will discuss French-Caribbean poetic engagements with disasters and politics, and their invaluable contributions to Anthropocene discourse. The seminar is taking place on 31 October at the University of Birmingham and is organised by Patricia Noxolo, Adunni Adams and James Owen Heath. Attendance is free of charge. Speakers include Lisabeth Paravisini-Gebert, Fabienne Viala, Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Maria Cristina Fumagalli, Pat Noxolo, Louise Hardwick and Thomas Glave.

Here are the seminar details:

“[W]e need imaginations that are sensitive to inner-city decay and the lungs of the globe orchestrated into forests and rivers and skies. We need to build afresh through the brokenness of our world….”
— Wilson Harris

This one-day symposium looks at the ways in which the Caribbean and the future are imagined together. How has the future of the Caribbean been imagined and how is it being re-imagined at a time of environmental change and global insecurity? How does the future look when we imagine it in and through the Caribbean – is the Caribbean a space to imagine the future differently?

31 October 2014, 9am – 5.15pm

The University of Birmingham
Room 311
Geography Building
Birmingham B15 2TT

You can register for the seminar here. The programme can be viewed here.

Carribbean Future Spaces is funded by the Institute for Latin American Studies & the University of Birmingham.

AAG 2015 CFP: Feminist Geophilosophy

Image: Still from Björk ‘Mutual Core’

Feminist geophilosophy

AAG 2015 CFP, Chicago IL 21st – 25th April 2015

Convenors: Angela Last (University of Glasgow) and Kathryn Yusoff (Queen Mary University of London)
Sponsored by the Cultural Geography Specialty Group (CGSG) of the Association of American Geographers

The current Anthropocenic milieu has given rise to a flurry of geophilosophical musings and “geo” appendages that are responding to the call to push thought further into the earth. Located in a wider field of engagements with matter and inorganic life, Anthropocenic thought must strive to rethink the relation between territory and earth and grapple with the emergence of a geopolitical field that is constituted by the geologic underpinnings of life and power. Planetary thought does not only represent a provocation to philosophy, but also to geography: what does it mean to think (with) the Earth? If geophilosophy claims this as its project, then it needs to negotiate a near infinite number of choices, reminiscent of Bataille’s claim that while philosophy must ‘positively envisage the waste products of intellectual appropriation’, it may not be able to deal with the scale and heterogeneity of what it finds. Here, a feminist reading perhaps sensitises us to the acts of selection that are being performed: what is or can be included, considering the scope? What is, in Barad’s terms ‘excluded from mattering’? What alliances are formed, uncovered or disregarded across the planet and beyond? A tradition of feminist thought also alerts us to the modes of exhaustion and forms of violence that characterize such matterings and their potential to become otherwise.

Considering that geophilosophy is often presented as an almost exclusively male domain despite its many claims to a diverse and inclusive discourse, the provocation of a feminist geophilosophy session offers an opportunity to think about imperative alliances between feminism and geophilosophy. Reminiscent of Graham Harman’s ‘Girls Welcome!!!’ comment about the perceived ‘sausage fest’ of speculative realism, similar arguments could be made regarding geophilosophy’s intellectual scene. In this session we assert the unequivocal importance of feminist perspectives on geophilosophy to address the contours of power, race, sex, speciesm, biology and futurity within the context of the Anthropocene. If, indeed the Anthropocene is to betray its (homo)normative origins in the consecration of “Man”, Anthropocenic thought needs to find new points of departure that examine these spurious origins and problematic invocations to offer alternative strategies for solidarity and modes of existence with/in the earth.

Image: Still from Ellen Gallagher ‘Nothing is…’

As such, we welcome papers that attend to:

  • Inhuman genealogies and inorganic life
  • Geologic thought/philosophies of geology/geotrauma
  • Feminist geophilosophers
  • Anthropocene and racialization
  • Anthropocene and postcolonial thought/decolonization
  • Anthropocene and feminism
  • Matter and geopower(s)
  • Queer ecologies and geologies
  • Epistemic violence and political ontology
  • Links between feminist geopolitics, feminist science studies and feminist geophilosophy

To be considered for the session, please send your abstract of 250 words or fewer, to: angela.Last@glasgow.ac.uk and k.yusoff@qmul.ac.uk

The deadline for the receipt of abstracts is October 1 2014. Notification of acceptance will be before October 7. All accepted papers will then need to register for the AAG conference at http://www.aag.org/annualmeeting. Accepted papers will be considered for a special issue or edited volume edited by the convenors.


Society & Space book review: Alondra Nelson’s ‘Body & Soul’


Today, the Society & Space Open Site published my review of Alondra Nelson’sBody and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination’, which I highly recommend to any geographers working on health, racism, ‘active citizenship’ and political activism. I came across the book as part of my research on ‘parallel institutions’, which are alternative institutions founded by disenfranchised publics. I will be exploring the topic more in the future, also as part of my World Social Science Fellowship in global social governance.