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: ‘Crowd, Isolated on White’ (Leontura/Getty Images)
This morning, my latest article on geography and matter was published by Environment & Planning D: Society and Space. There are two kinds of discomforts that I am processing in this article: the lack of dialogue on the role of matter between followers of historical and new materialism, and my conflicted relationship with the work of Hannah Arendt. I had the feeling that the two problems were related, so I went ahead to see where it took me, starting with channelling the many animated conversation that I have had with people at workshops and conferences. I ended up somewhere different than expected, but with one thing I was right: it had to do with the way we make cuts between the material and supposedly non-material world. The result is called ‘Re-reading Worldliness: Hannah Arendt and the Question of Matter‘. If you do not have access to the journal, please send me an email. It is also available for free on the journal website until 12 September.
Both new and historical materialisms have attracted a reputation for leading to ‘bad politics’. Historical materialisms have been accused of reducing too much to material relations and their production, whereas new materialisms have been accused of avoiding politics completely. This article reads the critique directed at materialisms against Hannah Arendt’s exceptional distrust of matter. Focusing on her concept of ‘worldliness’, it grapples with the question ‘why do we need an attention to matter in the first place?’ The attempted re-reading takes place through a feminist and postcolonial lens that draws out the contributions and failures of Arendt’s (anti)materialist framework in its banishing of matter from politics. Arendt’s focus on the prevention of dehumanisation further serves as a means to discuss materialism’s risk in negotiating the tension between deindividuation and dehumanisation.
The following call might be of interest to readers:
Themed issue on ‘Environment’
Feminism has a long and complex relationship to ‘nature’ and ‘the environment’. From critiques of the gendered nature/ culture binary to ecofeminism, feminists have alternatively rejected and celebrated women’s supposedly closer relationship to the natural world. Feminism has also long engaged critically with conventional definitions of humanism and ‘the human’, especially as derived from the exclusionist and violent definitions of the European Enlightenment.
These activist and critical histories have been revised and revisited in recent years as part of a growing preoccupation in the social sciences and humanities with the environment as subject, as well as object, of study. Growing consciousness of human-induced climate change, with its vastly unequal impact on different human populations as well as the planet as a whole, adds special urgency to these concerns. Whether as part of the post-humanist critique of the humanities, the ‘animal turn’, or the ‘new materialism’, feminists and other scholar-activists are increasingly reconceptualising definitions of, and boundaries between, the human and other-than-human world.
Feminist Review invites academic articles and creative interventions for a special issue on ‘Environment’. Possible topics of consideration include:
-genealogies of feminist environmentalism, within and beyond ecofeminism
-gender, race, class and ‘intersectional environmentalism’
-postcolonialism and environmental justice
-feminist contributions to debates and interventions around climate change
-gendered histories of the environment
-memory, mourning and environmental destruction
-religious and spiritual dimensions of feminist engagement with ecology
-post-humanist approaches to environmental studies
-kinship across species
-feminist, queer and anti-racist interventions in animal studies
-feminist perspectives on planetary futures
Issue editors: Yasmin Gunaratnam, Carrie Hamilton and Ioana Szeman
If you would like to discuss your ideas for this issue please contact the editors at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Full articles or Open Space pieces to be submitted by 2 January 2017.
Manuscripts should be submitted through Feminist Review’s online submission system and in FR house style. See http:// http://www.palgrave-journals.com/fr/author_instructions.html.
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.
Call for submissions
“Coined by Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen at the inception of the 21st Century, the concept of the anthropocene postulates a new geological epoch defined by overwhelming human influence upon the earth beginning with the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century. The concept has since been picked up and expanded by other scientists, chiefly but not exclusively geologists and planetary ecologists. More recently the anthropocene has caught the imagination of humanists, artists, and social scientists for whom it has provided a powerful framework through which to account for and depict the impact of climate change in a variety of media forms and practices.
In many ways, however, the anthropocene is a strikingly resonant iteration of the problematic forcefully articulated in Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto,” which sees the human, nonhuman, culture, and nature as inextricably entangled, and warns that the consequences of attempts to dominate human and nonhuman nature can be at once devastatingly successful and productively perverse. Indeed, the concept of the anthropocene has arguably been implicit in feminism, critical theory, and queer theory for decades, a genealogy that is largely ignored, or worse, erased, by the masculine authority of science.
By the same token, while feminists have long argued that humans are dominating and destroying the earth, turning it into standing reserve, capital, or resource to devastating ends, it is also the case that this recent articulation of the anthropocene, even as it affirms those arguments in many ways, deprives feminism of some of the normative ground upon which such indictments are based. This tension has been anticipated in ecofeminism and feminist science studies, but now, in the 21st century, the articulation of a post-natural condition in the form of a new geological age demands rigorous and sustained attention to global, ahuman forces of ecological change as well as to local spaces of vulnerability and resistance.
To this end, C21’s conference on Anthropocene Feminism will consider the ways in which feminism has long been concerned with the anthropocene, and what current interest in the anthropocene might mean for feminism, in its evolving histories, theories, and practices. More to the point, the conference seeks to highlight both why we need an anthropocene feminism and why thinking the anthropocene must come from feminism. We begin with two sets of questions.
First, how has feminism anticipated the concept of the anthropocene, and what might it yet have to offer: how can feminism help us to historicize, challenge, or refine the concept of the anthropocene? What do new materialist feminism or ecofeminism (to name just two) add to (or detract from) current humanistic understandings of the anthropocene? What does feminism have to say to the claim that humans now act as a geological force in ways that are independent of or indifferent to social, cultural, or political will or intent?
Second, and equally important, is there (or should there be) an anthropocene feminism? Put differently, does the claim that we have entered a new epoch in which humans are a major geological force on the planet call for a reconceptualization of feminism? Does feminism require a new formulation specific to the age of the anthropocene, a new historical or period designation? How should feminism in an anthropogenic age take up an altered relation to—an increased attention to or concern for—the nonhuman world?
We seek proposals for critical, historical, and theoretical papers or creative presentations that address the questions posed by the concept of “anthropocene feminism.” We encourage participants to investigate and analyze the anticipation of this concept in feminism and other related theoretical paradigms and, in turn, to speculate upon its implications. We are also interested in work that pays attention to the place of the nonhuman in feminist theory and practice, in order to offer some suggestions about how the humanities, arts, and social sciences might best treat the anthropocene as we move forward in the 21st century.
Topics we imagine proposals pursuing include but are not limited to:
- feminist genealogies of the anthropocene
- queer nature, queer ecologies, queer anthropocene
- new materialism
- quantum entanglements and agential realism
- feminism and dark ecologies
- environmental racism and transnational feminist approaches
- the anthropocene and the commons
- feminist science and science studies in the anthropocene
- anthropocene feminism after capitalism
- feminist reflections on environmental ethics and aesthetics in the anthropocene
- cyborg futures, geo-engineering, speculative ecologies
- feminism after the non-human turn
- feminist epistemologies
- feminism and climate, geo- and environmental sciences
- anthropocene utopianism/dystopianism and their antecedents
We invite contributions from theorists and practitioners of humanities, arts, and the social and natural sciences, or any others interested in the relation between feminism and the anthropocene.
Please send your abstract (up to 250 words) and a brief (1-page) CV by Friday, December 6 to Richard Grusin, Director, Center for 21st Century Studies, firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Over at the Society & Space blog, Kathryn Yusoff has just uploaded the forum on the 400ppm concentration. Entitled ‘Exit Holocene, Enter Anthropocene’, the forum brings together a set of eleven short commentaries on the latest atmospheric CO2 ‘milestone’. In my contribution to this forum, I grapple with the rather abstract figure of 400 parts per million in the form of a mini-review-dialogue with two ‘growth objectors’, Isabelle Stengers and François Roddier.
Two of my articles have just come out. A commissioned piece on ‘experimental geographies’ and a theoretical article, which also talks about experimentation – with the inhuman.
Angela Last, ‘Negotiating the Inhuman: Bakhtin, Materiality and the Instrumentalization of Climate Change’, Theory, Culture & Society.
The article argues that the work of literary theorist Mikhail M. Bakhtin presents a starting point for thinking about the instrumentalization of climate change. Bakhtin’s conceptualization of human–world relationships, encapsulated in the concept of ‘cosmic terror’, places a strong focus on our perception of the ‘inhuman’. Suggesting a link between the perceived alienness and instability of the world and in the exploitation of the resulting fear of change by political and religious forces, Bakhtin asserts that the latter can only be resisted if our desire for a false stability in the world is overcome. The key to this overcoming of fear, for him, lies in recognizing and confronting the worldly relations of the human body. This consciousness represents the beginning of one’s ‘deautomatization’ from following established patterns of reactions to predicted or real changes. In the vein of several theorists and artists of his time who explored similar ‘deautomatization’ strategies – examples include Shklovsky’s ‘ostranenie’, Brecht’s ‘Verfremdung’, Artaud’s emotional ‘cruelty’ and Bataille’s ‘base materialism’ – Bakhtin proposes a more playful and widely accessible experimentation to deconstruct our ‘habitual picture of the world’. Experimentation is envisioned to take place across the material and the textual to increase possibilities for action. Through engaging with Bakhtin’s ideas, this article seeks to draw attention to relations between the imagination of the world and political agency, and the need to include these relations in our own experiments with creating climate change awareness.
Angela Last, ‘Experimental Geographies’, Geography Compass.
The proliferation of the term ‘experimental’ in human geography has given rise to the question of how geographers experiment. Given the range of different examples – from explorations of sensory methods to attempts at transforming the role of publics in decision-making – it becomes clear that one cannot talk about a unified experimental geographical approach. While projects share common themes such as challenging methodological limitations or wishing to play a more active part in the ‘production of space’, they also show fundamental differences in their attitude towards knowledge-making and intervention in the world. A starting point for further research and debate, rather than a comprehensive survey, this article outlines themes, differences and productive tensions within the discourse, and highlights the need to examine the wider politics that experimental approaches are embedded in.