Interrupting the Anthropo-obScene: Immuno-biopolitics and Depoliticizing Ontologies in the Anthropocene
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This paper argues that ‘the Anthropocene’ is a deeply depoliticizing notion. This de-politicization unfolds through the creation of a set of narratives, what we refer to as ‘AnthropoScenes’, which broadly share the effect of off-staging certain voices and forms of acting. Our notion of the Anthropo-obScene is our tactic to both attest to and undermine the depoliticizing stories of ‘the Anthropocene’. We first examine how various AnthropoScenes, while internally fractured and heterogeneous, ranging from geo-engineering and earth system science to more-than-human and object-oriented ontologies, place things and beings, human and non-human, within a particular relational straitjacket that does not allow for a remainder or constitutive outside. This risks deepening an immunological biopolitical fantasy that promises adaptive and resilient terraforming, an earth system management of sorts that permits life as we know it to continue for some, while turning into a necropolitics for others. Second, we develop a post-foundational political perspective in relation to our dramatically changing socio-ecological situation. This perspective understands the political in terms of performance and, in an Arendtian manner, re-opens the political as forms of public-acting in common that subtracts from or exceeds what is gestured to hold socio-ecological constellations together. We conclude that what is off-staged and rendered obscene in ‘the AnthropoScenes’ carries precisely the possibility of a return of the political.
CitationSwyngedouw E, Ernstson H. Interrupting the Anthropo-obScene: Immuno-biopolitics and Depoliticizing Ontologies in the Anthropocene. Theory, Culture & Society. 2018;35(6):3-30. doi:10.1177/0263276418757314
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