The Theory, Culture & Society special issue on GeoSocial Formations is finally out! Please email me, if you don’t have access and would like to read it.
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.
My new article ‘We Are the World? Anthropocene Cultural Production between Geopoetics and Geopolitics‘ is now out in the ‘Geo-Social Formations and the Anthropocene’ Special Issue of Theory, Culture & Society. It was written two years ago, and should be read as the predecessor of the Geoforum article on geopoetics and geopolitics. Big thank you to Kathryn Yusoff and Nigel Clark for inviting me to participate in this issue. Other authors include Myra J Hird and Simon Dalby.
The article is also the second in a series of three on interwar ‘cosmic’ materialisms and their implications for the present. The previous one, ‘Negotiating the Inhuman: Bakhtin, Materiality & the Instrumentalisation of Climate Change’ was also published by Theory, Culture & Society. The third one is currently under review at another journal.
The proposal of the ‘Anthropocene’ as a new geological epoch where humans represent the dominant natural force has renewed artistic interest in the ‘geopoetic’, which is mobilized by cultural producers to incite changes in personal and collective participation in planetary life and politics. This article draws attention to prior engagements with the geophysical and the political: the work of Simone Weil and of the editors of the Martinican cultural journal Tropiques, Suzanne and Aimé Césaire. Synthesizing the political and scientific shifts in human-world relationships of their time, both projects are set against oppressive or narcissistic materialisms and experiment with the image of the ‘cosmic’ to cultivate a preoccupation not (only) with a tangible materialism but with an intangible one that emphasizes process and connectivity across wide spatial and temporal scales. The writers’ movement between poetics and politics will be used to enquire what kind of socio-political work a contemporary geopoetic could potentially do.
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.
We all may be a geophysical force, we may all be geology,
but we don’t matter, are matter and own matter equally.
Despite this realisation, we feel like we’ve been rendered geologically active,
but politically rather passive.
We pass through premature fossilisation in the face of nature’s agency
that we are suddenly able to perceive, apparently through Bruno Latour.
Shouting, flailing, we spew forth a deluge of cultural production
that portrays us as just that: already dead.
While the Anthropocene is embraced as an opportunity to reframe our engagement with the ‘geo’ in geography or even geopolitics, the on-going struggles against the dynamics that gave rise to the phenomenon of the Anthropocene are rarely mentioned. At best, the image of the Anthropocene serves to confirm the excesses of capitalism or is used to fantasise about a complicity of the Earth with socialist ideals of revolution. But mostly, discourse around the Anthropocene extends the experience economy into deep time and the earth’s core through affective engagements. The great Promethean realisation of the (M)anthropocene liberates us from paying attention to the everyday struggles against continued injustices against humans and nonhumans alike. In this session we would like to make present the not-so-present narratives of the Anthropocene in geographical discourse, especially around violence, inequality, white supremacy and on-going colonialism.
What does it mean, to use Aimé Césaire’s words, ‘to inhabit the face of a great disaster’, to witness and participate in its continued (re)production, both inside and outside of academia? What examples of contestation and intervention provoke re-inscription?
We invite responses for a session for the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference ‘Geographies of the Anthropocene’ in Exeter, UK (1-4 September 2015).
Please e-mail abstracts (250 words) to Kathryn Yusoff (firstname.lastname@example.org), Anja Kanngieser (email@example.com) or Angela Last (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 1 February 2015.
Image source: unknown
Next week, the RITA seminar ‘Imagining Caribbean Future Spaces’ will be taking place at the University of Birmingham. I will be speaking on the ‘Future Environmental Spaces’ panel with Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert. This is the abstract for my presentation. Hopefully see some of you there!
‘Apostrophant l’apocalypse, misant sur le déluge prêt à remodeler ton île avec le secours de ton volcan, tu as failli te faire toi aussi prendre au piège du terrorisme par procuration. Et tu cherches encore à préserver ton style pour le suivi de ta dérive sans oser rester seul en l’ayant dépassé. Mais ne va rien déchirer encore…’ (from Daniel Maximin, Soufrières, 1987).
What are we doing when we ‘apostrophise’ the apocalypse? I propose that the kinds of acts that resonate with this word and with this paragraph enable a productive dialogue with recent apocalyptic dialogue around climate change and the anthropocene. Based on my struggle with the translation of the above quote, this paper looks at the relations between destructive (or potentially destructive) relations between natural forces and human politics that have been rendered particularly sharply in the Caribbean. It is such relations that need to be addressed if we (and who is this we?) are still invested in a different kind of future. If the Caribbean, despite the constant natural and political threats that it is subjected to, is ‘not an apocalyptic world’ (Benìtez-Rojo), as it has been claimed, what might Caribbean discourse tell us about other ways of framing the contemporary and future planetary condition?
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
Birmingham B15 2TT
Carribbean Future Spaces is funded by the Institute for Latin American Studies & the University of Birmingham.