Bruno Latour, ‘Is Europe’s soil changing beneath our feet?’
A late text by Latour, published yesterday at geopolitique.eu
I will begin with a text which will seem unusual: Jean Bollack’s translation from the beginning of Oedipus Rex when the priest is addressing Oedipus. This translation says:
“For our city, as you yourself can see,
is badly shaken—she cannot raise her head
above the depths of so much surging death 1 .”
In re-reading this text I found that it resonated perhaps too well with the distressing situation we are witnessing, in this collection of wars we find ourselves dealing with, and which is reflected in Sophocles’ play by the dreadful figure of the plague. Here, the priest is in the position of beggar; but we know right away that very quickly the king, the master, the authority which the priest implores will soon become himself the beggar, chased from the city of Thebes — blind, exiled, and begging for his bread.
The use of ‘soil’ when he really means ‘territory’ is not convincing. Because there is no discussion of the qualities of soil – it is a metaphor.
This is the part of Latour’s work I’ve discussed in print. It felt too soon to react to this particular piece. I’d be interested to see the French original, if indeed it was first written in French. Does he use terre, as he does elsewhere, or sol? The terms have different resonances, but I too found soil a bit disconcerting.