Latour’s Onus: Naturalpolitik, Imperialism, and Re-Collection

I’m a few months late on writing about this, but earlier this year, Millennium: A Journal of International Studies released an interesting article by Bruno Latour, titled “Onus Orbis Terrarum: About a Possible Shift in the Definition of Sovereignty.” It’s interesting not in the least because it represents an explicit leap into the field of politics, one which has been circled around in many of his works (Graham Harman has deftly illustrated this in Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political) and is even recognized as a distinct mode of existence, [POL], in the AIME project — but here, Latour dives directly into [POL] instead of merely tracing the outline of its conditions. Latour argues that, just as Nature was built up in contradistinction to Culture as the inert, objective backdrop on which science operates, the field of international relations has built its work upon the presupposition of a unitary and objective Globe composed of cleanly divided nation-states who autonomously interact with one another, when the reality of global politics is far more messy. Latour makes some effort to draw out a few paradoxical consequences of this structure regarding issues such as agency and causality, and while some of his arguments aren’t exactly new territory for IR (I was reminded at times of a book I read for my senior seminar in IR, Realist Constructivism by J. Samuel Barkin), it’s still refreshing to see him tackle a new area of study with his trademark argumentative style.

I think this piece becomes particularly interesting in the context of another article, “A Manifesto for Abundant Futures” by Rosemary-Claire Collard, Jessica Dempsey, and Juanita Sundberg. Their Manifesto came out a year or two before Latour’s article, but it anticipates many of his claims in an uncanny way. For Collard et al., declarations of nature’s recent passing made by folks like Latour, William Cronon, Noel Castree, and Gerald Braun (we could, I think, add Timothy Morton and Slavoj Zizek to this list) may unwittingly accomodate or inspire a new movement within centrist environmentalism: what they term “neoliberal conservation,” where non-human plant and animal life is conserved via enclosure within human social and managerial structures. Even if what we have heretofore called Nature is a falsehood (or at least is in fact un-natural), Collard et al. caution that tossing it into the dustbin of history plays too easily into the desires of the imperial geopolitical structures of neoliberalism, which would love nothing more than the opportunity to exploit new lands and species habitats that we had previously protected for the sake of ‘conserving nature.’ What emerges is a new mode of capitalist development that emphasizes conservation driven by economic concerns; not a capitalism willing to run roughshod over the entirety of the environment, but one that recognizes that a modicum of conservation is necessary for general (human) well-being, but offers no concern for non-human life beyond that.

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List of OA journals in geography, political ecology, and various social sciences

Very informative! Many of these were brand new to me.

Progressive Geographies

Simon Batterbury’s list of OA journals in geography, political ecology, and various social sciences has been updated, and includes some open access book publishers at the foot of the page.

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Dark Deleuze: disconnectivist theory

I’ve started working through Dark Deleuze by Andrew Culp, currently of the rhetoric department at Whitman college and, like myself, a former college policy debater. Against the emphasis on joy and affirmation perceived in Deleuze studies today, Culp undertakes some ‘philosophical buggery’ of his own and refashions Deleuze into a thinker of destruction and negativity. It’s a very original and fascinating project, and has been very thought-provoking in context of some reading on Badiou that I’ve been doing lately (but more on that another day). Here, I’d like to get some words on the page regarding what Culp terms “connectivism.”

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Afro-pessimism’s different world

I think early 2016 Levi Bryant was awesome. He had kind of slowed down from the rapid-fire rate of posts of earlier years, down to one or two a month a few times in 2015, and then picked up the pace a bit near the end of the year. I think this post really represented some kind of turning point; although I guess his point was that the turn was there all along, and he just needed a few explicit statements to make it obvious to folks like me.

A post from a few months ago, “The Topology of Historical Time,” draws up a concept of multiple welts or worlds, worlds which are physically and chronologically contemporary and overlapping, but phenomenologically or existentially differing. Bryant exemplifies this by referencing the moment in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman professes a total, incommensurable divergence in being between himself and a homeless man he meets in an alley: “You and I have nothing in common, we come from entirely different worlds.  I can’t even understand you.”  Bateman and the homeless man obviously live on the same planet and do so at the same time; spatially, they are quite proximate to one another, relative to the rest of human (or non-human) existence. What Bateman is speaking to is the way a world is lived or experienced — beyond its mere self-sufficient existence, a world is a world for something. 

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The Conformist and fascist desire


This morning, I took rare advantage of my Netflix account and watched The Conformist (Italian: Il Conformista), a film by acclaimead director Bernardo Bertolucci. The movie, based on the novel of the same title by Alberto Moravia, follows the young Marcello Clerici’s attempt to lodge himself within the bureaucracy of Mussolini’s fascist Italy by carrying out an assassination on his former mentor, the political dissident and exile Professor Quadri. Along the way, Marcello confronts his childhood sexual trauma and parental alienation, and is forced to navigate his relationship with his petit-bourgeois wife Giullia and his attraction to the professor’s wife Anna. Honeymooning in Paris as an excuse to seek out his mark, Marcello’s commitment to the task waivers as he lusts for Anna and debates with Quadri.


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“Geopolitics of Hibernation” – Mckenzie Wark

The fact is that the planet is already massively geo-engineered. There is no cyclical ecology from which we could withdraw in order to allow it to go back to its homeostatic balance and order. The problem is thus not whether to refuse to geo-engineer. It is rather to choose how to geo-engineer. Are there ways in which the vast global infrastructure already in place can be qualitatively transformed in order to make something else? Could there be a geophysics rather than a geopolitics of hibernation?

via “Geopolitics of Hibernation”

“A Savage Ecology” – Jairus Grove

The expanse of possible alliances lost in the scoping singularity of our current apocalypse is unknowable in an unusual way. Each lost alliance or form of life means a future that can no longer come about. The global advance of homogenization is killing the futures as it strangles the present.