Talk at HDK Göteborg

20 Nov. 2019

Lecture at HDK Göteborg on 20 Nov. 2019 @15:00, for the CEP Critical & Editorial Practices dept. arranged by Markus Miessen.

On Planetary Co-existences

The premise of the text “Solidarity without Sameness,” was to look at the increased interest in the category “human” in the wake of of the turbulently uncertain, risky setting we find ourselves in with climate catastrophe – where the scientific term ‘Anthropocene’ marks both the potency of human agency as a geological force, as well as our impotency as mere subjects of natural history like any other species. I think one of the most crucial political, ethical and practical question of our time is taking place within and over this category ‘human’ – and what sorts of concepts are being forged in its name as we face the prehistory of an unknown world on the cusp of becoming. As the polymath Sylvia Wynter wrote, as post-nuclear creatures, now faced with climate emergency, for the first time in human history we are faced with the problem of co-existence within and for an environment in common, no matter how drastically different the degrees of crisis certain geographies and communities face. This observation brings with it, the need to think of a praxis of being human made to the measure of the planetary –  a spatio-temporal proposition that has informed a lot of my thinking lately. I’d like you to keep that critical observation in mind, while we briefly turn to, and summarize the neo-fascist response to these turbulent times including the role of the human within them.

While growing disenchantment with neoliberalist order, or unilateral globalization increases across the political spectrum, there are several key elements at play within the extreme right worth indexing. The 2008 global financial meltdown crash did not manifest in speculative models for progressive coexistence as one may have hoped, but in anachronistic nationalisms on the far right. Despite our profoundly transformed and transforming techno-material co-existential condition of deep interdependence, the old fictions of the nation, and ethno-nationalism have reignited the imaginations of many. The cooption of the hatred for unilateral globalization by the far right, has been premised on racist strategies of blame and othering, instrumentalizing the precarious conditions endured by many towards a violently delusional politics that refuses to confront the actual crises and causal forces that have created this condition – ones that are deeply structural with long-standing historical ties. The far right traffics in images of a simplified world, a world-picture where one is deceptively sold the false option to bunker down in the isolated safety of national familiarity, while denying any responsibility or accountability for extra-local, interdependent and complex reality. It’s important here to recall that, according to Hannah Arendt such a world-picture serves as the root for all fascisms, namely: a world-picture where one imagines one can choose with whom one lives. This refusal of difference and complex co-existence, communicated through simplified world-images, fundamentally rejects the political question of how we choose to cohabitate by trading it with a destructive imaginary that wills to coerce the foreign into familiar picture of itself, and exclude all that is alien to it, as if it did not exist.

This reductive world picture carries with it a distinct spatial model: that it is possible and desirable no less, to treat certain regions and their populations as separable from the whole. This tendency of isolationism contains within it a specific geometrical perspective bound to what I like to think of as an extractive picturing of space. It is an atomistic and fragmented picturing of the world, one that deemphasizes relationality and forecloses on necessary questions of co-existence for the now over 7+ billion of us humans, not to mention non-human life forms which are equally threatened by rapid biospheric transformations. Put simply, the far-right operates in, and privileges a small-world cosmology.