From Eschatology to the Anthropocene: RGS-IBG Conference 2013

I’m gearing up for the annual Royal Geographical Society-IBG conference in London later in the week. I have found the conference to be very uneven in the past but am really looking forward to it this year. It looks like the discipline is in a really healthy place at the minute with lots of theoretically informed engagements coming into fruition and others just opening.

It will be a very busy conference for me as I am taking part in four panels, two of which I set up and two of which I will present papers on.

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First up is a panel discussion I organized around the theme of Thinking the Anthropocene with Kathryn Yussof, Nigel Clark, Angela Last and Jan Zalasiewicz. I have written about Kathryn and Nigel here before and am really looking forward to hearing Angela’s new thoughts (she runs the great blog, Mutable Matter: I particularly like that she manages to be both genuinely interdisciplinary and rigorous and her work takes in geography, philosophy, political theory and contemporary art – a range of concerns that very much match the intersection of my own). It will also be pleasure to welcome Jan who is a truly amazing speaker and something like the ‘public face’ of the anthropocene. It is great to have the perspective of an ‘actual geologist’ on board too, especially one so intellectually open to engaging with a wide range of perspectives and with political and philosophical questions. In a rather incredible piece of conference scheduling (!!!) this session sadly clashes with Bruce Braun’s keynote lecture for Antipode (more details of the talk and a special virtual issue of Antipode on ecological politics can be found here). The Antipode talk is usually a highlight of the conference and its particularly unfortunate that there is a schedule clash with Bruce’s talk not only as I will miss it but because he is a major voice in the broad field of social-nature that those of us involved in the Anthropocene panel locate the concerns we are addressing.

Both the anthropocene panel and Bruce’s talk will relate closely to the two sessions on Geo-Social Formations: Capitalism and the Earth that Kathryn, Nigel and Arun Saldanha have organized that morning, the second of which I will chair. I would like to have given a paper but was too heavily committed already to do so. The panels look great, building on the conference discussions earlier in the year at Minneapolis and Los Angeles I spoke about here before (and of course on the great work Kathryn and Nigel have long been doing) but this time bringing the broader debates around the anthropocene towards a critique of capital. I am particularly looking forward to Stuart Elden’s paper on ‘terracide’. I have followed Stuart’s work on the ‘Geo’ and the ‘World’ with great interest but have not had the chance to hear this work in person before. I am sure the dark shadow of Reza Negarestani will hang over proceedings for me.

Third is a panel on the theme of Eschatology and World Politics that I co-organized with Ross Adams (UCL, Bartlett School of Architecture / London Consortium) which takes its jumping off point from Carl Schmitt’s ideas on political theology and secularization but seeks to engage with the ways in which eschatological philosophies of history relate to conceptions of world politics (the ‘world’ here being understood as a spatial concept in a variety of registers). I will be presenting some of my recent work on Schmitt’s spatial histories, similar to what I aired at this years AAG in Los Angeles with a slight different focus and hopefully with time to push more on the question of a planetary politics that Schmitt raises. I am looking forward to Ross’ paper as he is developing some fascinating work on the history of urbanism as a specific way of thinking spatial politics and the city as a particular form of governmental apparatus that draws on Schmitt, Foucault and Koselleck in interesting ways. We are delighted to be hosting Mika Luoma-aho, a really interesting International Relations thinker based in Finland who wrote a great book on God and International Relations: Christian Theology and World Politics recently drawing heavily on Schmitt’s thought. I am looking forward to probing Mika about the strange nexus of Left Schmitt scholars that seems to have coalesced in Finland, including Mikas Ojakangas and Sergei Prozorov, whose work I greatly appreciate (I have theories about Finland’s frontier with Russia – where a very different reading of Schmitt and space circulates amongst the far Right geopoliticians of ‘Eurasianism’). Also taking part is Gerry Aiken from Durham who I have not met before but will present what looks to be great work on climate change and apocalyptic thought (roughly where I end up in my own presentation).

Lastly I will take part in a panel on Abstractions organized by Alex Loftus on Friday morning. I am not too sure what to expect from this panel yet but Alex is a great guy and I enjoyed working with him when we were both at Royal Holloway’s Geography Department. His work on ecological politics is great and I am particularly impressed by his persistent engagement with Antonio Gramsci as well as his deep interest in the political dimensions and potentials of contemporary art. I am also really looking forward to Harriet Hawkins’ paper on abstract art here (Harriet is another former colleague from Royal Holloway whose work is in Geography but spans engagements with art and some very interesting work on materiality). My own paper will be rather general in scope laying out some broad schematic reflections on the relationship between geographic thought and contemporary philosophy and relating this to my interest in geo-social relations on the one hand and the difficulties involved in the ‘realist’ tradition of political thought’s supposed commitment to the ‘concrete’ on the other. It is a bit of an experiment but I am glad that Alex invited me to take part so that I might be pushed to formalize some these thoughts more and attempt to bridge the connection between various strands of my research that I feel relate to each other but am often too happy to leave nestled beside each other rather than systematically interrogate. This panel will hopefully provide a step in the right direction here.

I am also looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues from the UK and the US, including many of those I had the pleasure to meet earlier this year in Minneapolis and Los Angeles and older colleagues like David Featherstone and Alan Ingram (Alan served as one of my PhD examiners and he will be presenting some of the work related to his project on art and geopolitics at the conference which I look forward to greatly). It is always a pleasure to catch up with people at conferences and hear about other people’s work, both in papers and in the bar afterwards, and they can serve as really useful forums for putting wind in the sails of individual projects and building collective momentum around shared endeavours. I think this will be one of those occasions. I will give some sort of report when the dust has settled.

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CFP, AAG 2014: Geophilosophy and the Geo-Social

Elizabeth Johnson, Harlan Morehouse and myself are putting together some sessions at the 2014 AAG around the relationship between Geophilosophy and Geography, and particularly what we are calling the Geo-Social.

Please circulate the below CFP to anyone you think may be interested.
Many thanks

Geophilosophy and the Geo-Social

AAG 2014

Call for Panels/Papers

Elizabeth Johnson,

Harlan Morehouse, University of Minnesota

Rory Rowan, Wageningen University

There is a growing consensus that in the 21st century the planet is no longer the concern of geologists and climate scientists alone, but that philosophical and social thought must also increasingly engage with planetary concerns. Emergent literatures across the social sciences and humanities are struggling to generate new conceptual frameworks and research strategies to adequately account for the complex knots that bind social, geological, biological and technological forces together, as well as the catastrophic potentials that reside within them (see, for example: Braun and Whatmore 2010; Clark 2010; Ellsworth et al 2012; Saldanha 2013; Yusoff 2013; and the special issue of the Oxford Literary Review, 2012). At the recent RGS-IBG conference in London, Nigel Clark, Arun Saldanha and Kathryn Yusoff characterized this messy tangle of anthropogenic and nonhuman forces as the ‘Geo-Social.’ In many ways, this ‘Geo-Social’ can be considered the foundation of geographic scholarship. However, as many begin to examine the links between social history and geologic change in the context of Climate Change and the advent of the Anthropocene, the ‘Geo-Social’ invites a radical reassessment of fundamental conceptual frameworks across a number of registers – from the epistemological and ontological to the political and ethical – and a re-articulation of Geography’s relation to other disciplines. But just as these issues strain traditional disciplinary boundaries and standard methodological frameworks, they open the possibility for new forms of collaborative research stretching across the natural and social sciences and the humanities, and involving both empirically based work and speculative thought.

The massive transformations in human-planet relations also raise fundamental philosophical questions and invite re-evaluations of the complexity of concrete Geo-Social entanglements: How, for example, do planetary conditions affect our philosophical frameworks and how do we frame the Earth philosophically? Thus, in addition to examining the Geo-Social, we aim to examine Geophilosophy as a form of thought specifically committed to exploring the relationship between philosophy and the Earth. Geophilosophy has a rich heritage in modern Continental Philosophy arguably reaching from Kant and Nietzsche through Deleuze and Guattari to contemporary thinkers like Elizabeth Grosz (2008), Reza Negarestani (2011), John Protevi (2013), Michel Serres (2012) and Ben Woodard (2012). We aim to place Geography at the forefront of this debate in the belief that its critical traditions and recent efforts in rethinking human-nonhuman relations can provide crucial insights that deepen philosophical traction on the world whilst locating disciplinary concerns at the cutting edge of wider theoretical debates. We particularly seek to engage with recent attempts in Geography to re-interrogate the ‘geo’ as a way to engage with planetary questions without re-inscribing the economic and political over-determinations of ‘globalization.’

These sessions seek to advance conversations begun at the “Anthropocene” sessions at the 2013 AAG in Los Angeles and the 2013 RGS-IBG by further exploring the philosophical and empirical implications of the Geo-Social. We specifically seek papers that address any of the following concerns, among possible others:

· What modes of thought are best suited to understanding the matrix of human and non-human forces that make up the Geo-Social today? What are the political stakes of rethinking how we conceive of Geo-Social relations?

· How might Climate Change and the advent of the Anthropocene affect the ways in which we conceive of the Earth, and what new philosophical possibilities might be opened by these developments?

· What new perspectives can Geography bring to the philosophical traditions of Geophilosophy – from Kant to Negarestani – and how might it bear on its future trajectories?

· What questions and forms of knowledge production – imagined, emergent, or well established – are needed in the face of an emerging ecological catastrophe?

· Do 21st century environmental conditions call for new forms of experimental research and praxis-based approaches that bridge the physical and social sciences? How might we develop modes of examination that refuse the distinction ‘physical or social’ without reinforcing the neoliberal university’s call for ‘transdisciplinarity’?

· What is the relationship between existing Geo-Social formations and histories of capitalism? Beyond the privatization/neoliberalization of non-human life through carbon markets and ecosystem services, around what forms of value might post-capitalist Geo-Social formations organize?

Please send inquiries / abstracts of no more than 250 words to Geophilosophy.AAG2014@gmail.com by October 5th 2013.

References:

Braun. B. and Whatmore, S., editors. (2010). Political Matter: Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Chakrabarty, D. (2009). The Climate of History: Four Theses. Critical Inquiry, 39. 197-222.

Clark, N. (2011). Inhuman nature sociable life on a dynamic planet. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Clark, N., Saldanha, A., and Yusoff, K. editors. (forthcoming 2014). Capitalism and the Earth. Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books.

Ellsworth E., Kruse, J., and Beatty. editors (2012). Making the Geologic Now: Repsonses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life. Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books.

Grosz, E. (2008). Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. New York: Columbia University Press.

Negarestani, R. (2011). Globe of Revolution: An Afterthought on Geophilosophical Realism. Identities, 17, 25-54.

Protevi, J. (2013). Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Saldanha, A. (2013). Some Principles of Geocommunism. Retrieved from:

http://www.geocritique.org/arun-saldanha-some-principles-of-geocommunism/

Serres, M. (2012). Biogea. Minneapolis, MN: Univocal.

Woodward, B. (2013). On an Ungrounded Earth: Towards a New Geophilosophy. Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books.

Yusoff, K. (2013). Insensible Worlds: Postrelational Ethics, Indeterminacy and the (K)nots of relating. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31(2), 208–226. doi:10.1068/d17411

Yusoff, K. editor. (2013). 400ppm: Exit Holocene, Enter Anthropocene. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. Retrieved from http://societyandspace.com/2013/07/26/400ppm-exit-holocene-enter-anthropocene