Scales of the Political: Race in the Anthropocene ASAP 10
In a not-so-subtly-titled essay, “It’s Not the Anthropocene, It’s the White Supremacy Scene. Or, The Geological Color Line,” Nicholas Mirzoeff writes, “One of the key themes of Anthropocene writing has been the idea that nature has been replaced or overdetermined by human activity. In that over-writing, the central function of race within the framing of the Earth system has been displaced. This discursive move is not intentionally racist, except insofar as it is a mark of a certain privilege to be able to overlook race.” Mirzoeff’s point is that the privilege of whiteness performs a de-subjectification by abstracting human life into a speciation above and beyond difference. This enacts a lumping together of a human mass that Julian Murphet derides as a mode of “ontological enthusiasm” at the expense of “ideological quietism.” Claire Colebrook critiques this as mode of thinking as a “species solidarity,” what Donna Haraway describes as the “one real actor” narrative of the Anthropocene. What is congealing out of this cross-section of thinkers is that the interpellation of humanity into a macroscale misses the diverse valences of lived experience. As Francoise Vergès argues, the Anthropocene can easily be mobilized as a “de-historicizing” impulse to chart a “charismatic mega-category” beyond the pale of difference. The Anthropocene, put simply, runs the risk of imagining the Political without doing any politics.
This panel invites papers that take up this question of politics in the Anthropocene to ask how do we amend the planetary, the biological, and the geological to our political lexicons in an (ongoing) moment of planetary and racial crisis? That is, how do we think Charlottesville alongside the rise of CO2 above 400ppm? What is at stake here is an interrogation of a contemporary that, as Elizabeth Povinelli sees it, “does not address us all in the same way.” This panel invites papers that take this as an aesthetic question just as much as it is a political one. Bruno Latour writes: “To get back to the common world, and perhaps also to the sense of the common, the solution is not to appeal to Totality, which in any case does not exist, but to learn to represent differently the territory to which one belongs.” Beyond homogenizing and reifying discourses of ‘Totality,’ Latour sees the possibility for a new politics in the Anthropocene hinged to an aesthetic, the possibility to ‘represent differently’ the micro- and macro-territories that constitute our reality. This panel reads texts that seek to represent differently by looking at the granularity of differences to imagine an aesthetic that attends to the molecular and the molar simultaneously. This is a way of reading outside of the decisional cut between striated layers (environment or race, biology or geology, politics or aesthetics). This is a way of reading for a transscalar and.
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