I’ll be speaking at a conference on Political Geology: Stratigraphies of Power on 21 June at Lancaster University - I’ll be giving an abbreviated version of the ‘Fossils’ paper I gave in Canberra and Macau last year. Thanks to Kathryn Yusoff for inviting me. In part this is a continuation of the conversation with Elizabeth Grosz at the AAG – audio available at the Society and Space open site.
With what language can we describe the politics of the Earth? ‘Geopolitics’ should be the name of that language; yet the geopolitical lexicon is strangely lacking in any reference to the Earth System, to its structures and resistances, its deep time and its sudden upheavals. In recent decades, social and political theory has undertaken a number of biological turns, giving rise for example to political ecology, ecological economics and theories of biopolitics. But, despite Deleuze and Guattari’s exploration of ‘geophilosophy’, and Elizabeth Grosz’s recent discussion of ‘geopower’, there has been no comparable geological turn: no concerted inquiry into the ways that the geophysical, as much as the biological, conditions what politics is and can be.
However, debates around the advent of the Anthropocene epoch seem to mark a growing recognition of humankind as a geological force. At the same time, unregenerate seismic, volcanic and other geomorphological forces attest to the limits of the human, and point to our eventual mineral fate – but also can be seen as powers that propel and incite human agency, not least in the form of fossilised hydrocarbons.
This workshop will explore the possibilities for a political vocabulary that can articulate the geophysical dimensions of politics and the political dimensions of the geophysical. We will touch on domains and structures such as tectonic plates and rock, fossils and soil, air and water, life and bodies, and on phenomena such as erosion, (de)stratification, flow and viscosity, in order to think the politics of an Earth that is constantly in becoming and in formation.
Speakers will include: Nigel Clark (Open University), Deborah Dixon (Aberystwyth University), Stuart Elden (Durham University), Myra Hird (Queen’s University, Canada), Arun Saldanha (University of Minnesota), Bronislaw Szerszynski (Lancaster University) and Kathryn Yusoff (Lancaster University).