Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Geologic Life: Prehistory, Climate, Futures in the Anthropocene

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Geologic Life: Prehistory, Climate, Futures in the Anthropocene

Article excerpt

"in order to watch over the future, everything would have to be begun again."

Jacques Derrida (1994, page 175)

"It seems to me that we can push even further the impetus to antihumanism by acknowledging the formative, productive role of inhuman forces which constitute the human as such and provide the conditions and means by which it may overcome itself."

Elizabeth Grosz (2005, page 186)

The diagnostic of the Anthropocene proposes a new geological epoch that designates humans as a collective being capable of geomorphic force, shaping Earth systems on a par with inhuman forces (Crutzen, 2002). This social geology that marks the ascendance to an inhuman planetary power is fuelled by fossils from the Carboniferous era, the matter-energy of which gives rise to the political formations of late capitalism. If human life has been characterised in late capitalism by the biopolitics of securitisation and far-reaching forms of economic and cultural commodification, the nomination of the Anthropocene institutes a reminder that the biopolitics of life has a more expansive mineralogical geography that needs attention (see Clark, 2012; Clark and Yusoff, forthcoming; Yusoff et al, 2012). The intermingling of social and natural causality in anthropogenic climate change and the 'renaturalising' (see Grosz, 2005; Sharp, 2011, page 6) of humanity as geologic in the Anthropocene suggest a need to think about inhuman nature and geologic capacities within the context of a new Anthropocene-inflected geopolitics and its modes of subjectification. Further, this new understanding of being as geological effects the temporal and material imagination of the capacities of the human that move beyond a conceptualisation of social relations with fossil fuels into the contemplation of the social as composed through the geologic (and thus politically constituted by it in both political and radically apolitical ways). Yet nowhere are the geophysical, genomic, and social narratives of this geologic subjectification considered together so as to interrogate these geologic capacities, not just in terms of impacts on the Earth, but as forces that subjects share--geologic forces that compose and differentiate corporeal and collective biopolitical formations.

Considering the geologic as defining strata of contemporary subjectivity within the designation of the Anthropocene opens up the question of what forms of geologic life subtend subjectivity; and how this geologic life holds the potential for a more expansive inhuman thought, (1) as well as exemplifying the destruction of forms of subjective life that are tied to fossil fuels (and thus late capitalism). One way into the sensibility of this longue duree of geologic life is to look at the remainders and evidential base of hominin fossils on which material and conceptual archaeologies of the human are mobilised. Hominin fossils, actual and imagined, exhibit and evidence modes of extinction and forms of survival pertinent to a consideration of "life as a geological force" (Westbroek, 1991) and the "geo-logic" (Frodeman, 2003) of the Anthropocene. This paper, then, investigates what I am calling "geologic life"--a mineralogical dimension of human composition that remains currently undertheorised in social thought and is directly relevant for the material, temporal, and corporeal conceptualisation of fossil fuels. Examining fossils as material and discursive knots in the narrative arc of human becoming, I argue for a 'geological turn' that takes seriously not just our biological (or biopolitical) life, but our geological (or geopolitical) life, as crucial to modes of subjectification in the Anthropocene.

While the biopolitical turn spoke to concerns around bodily integrity, the molecular, and various forms of securitisation, the geopolitical (as geologic life) has yet to be substantiated as such, and must grapple with new forms of geomorphic effects and planetary changes that are specific to the designation of the Anthropocene and its recognition of the mass mobilisation of fossil fuels. …

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