…or the question concerning the Anthropocene, and the infrapolitical register
Pedro Aguilera Mellado, University of Notre Dame
Peter Baker, University of Stirling
Gabriela Méndez Cota, Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México
Since Paul Crutzen suggested the term in 2000, ‘the Anthropocene’ has become established as a narrative frame for the convergence of numerous discourses exploring the reach, as well as the limits, of human agency in connection with dynamic Earth processes. Like Epimethean hindsight, an issue of Culture Machine on Anthropocene Infrapolitics arrives in the wake of a decade-long explosion of Humanities discourse around the Anthropocene, as if such an explosion continued, somehow, to fail. Already in 2016, Cohen, Colebrook and Hillis Miller saw the Anthropocene as a twilight concept, ‘a form of half-recognition that can only occur in the moment of waning’. They noted how even if the Anthropocene as an idea had appeared to expose almost immediately the fictions of Cartesian Man, its overall effect had been to stir a production of counter-narratives, most of which failed to question narrative as such. Whereas the booms of the post-human and the non-human, alongside so many particular challenges to the universalizing claims of the Anthropocene, most often provided a way of sustaining the human as a problem, Cohen, Colebrook and Hillis Miller instead proposed to consider the materiality of language, by asking about the ways in which technical modes of inscription produced ‘the Anthropocene’ through (masculinist) delusions of self-erasure and structures of mourning.
If the Anthropocene remains as a call for intellectual responsibility vis-à-vis the geological impact of the human species, a structural difficulty persists, in (and beyond) university discourse. This structural difficulty concerns addressing the underlying problem of human finitude as it converges, at present, with the question concerning technology, on the one hand, and the real possibility of human extinction, on the other. Reframed today as an archive of planetary devastation, the Heidegerrian concept of Gestell continues to pose a question about the limits of storytelling and the need for, as Weinstein and Colebrook (2017) put it, no less than a decision on the value of existence. The proposed issue Anthropocene Infrapolitics seeks to respond to this particular way of articulating the challenge of the present time with a spirit akin to critical life studies, which is to say with an openness to the proliferation of singular experiences, working against all attempts to construct a new hegemonic framework for intellectual work, whether via scientific, economic or cultural knowledges about life.
Broadly conceived as the absolute difference between life and politics, between being and subjectivity, infrapolitics gives way to the task of thinking in the wake of philosophy and globalization: the ‘epoch without epoch’ (Stiegler) that is now framed by the Anthropocene. More narrowly conceived as a second turn of deconstruction, infrapolitical reflection recuperates the Heideggerian problematic of the ontico-ontological difference at the time of the consummation of metaphysics, or the reduction of life –including culture and politics –to calculability, or the principle of general equivalence. As formulated by Alberto Moreiras, infrapolitics is always in every case a commitment to think the exception to such a principle.
Anthropocene Infrapolitics seeks contributions that strive to think the exception, the incalculable, in the Anthropocene: the claim that we inhabit a new epoch in which humans are a major geological force on the planet. Does such a claim call for a specific chapter of infrapolitical reflection? Should the latter set out to challenge, or improve, the current understandings of the Anthropocene? Or should infrapolitical reflection do something else entirely, such as exiting the Anthropocene?
From within that conversation, Peter Baker observes that while infrapolitical reflection fundamentally concerns the relationship between language, writing, and thought, infrapolitics ‘speaks from’ a particular region of thought and experience which, unlike a certain understanding of deconstruction, is not itself a writing. As a call for existence, infrapolitics is irreducible to technics, ethics or politics, and instead attunes to somewhere strange and unthematizable. Hence one of the main questions for Anthropocene Infrapolitics is ‘over the form or style that the announcement of the infrapolitical should take, where writing is always understood as the writing of life itself, or perhaps more accurately what sub-cedes and sub-sists of life beyond or below its metaphysical capture’. Beyond conventional academic writing, this issue seeks untimely textual inscriptions, or writings that attempt to consciously bear the mark of their own historical or existential circumstances –which would be their technicity, as distinct from technology or technique.
The conditions of writing are never at the mercy of the writer; rather, we are already situated in a scene of writing beyond our control, that we inherit without ever fully knowing what it is that we have inherited. If such is the case, then what does this mean in the Anthropocene? How do we critically address the place and function of narrative in reflections on (and in) the Anthropocene? Anthropocene Infrapolitics does not seek to make any progress on knowledge production by telling more stories about planetary catastrophe, but rather it seeks to ask, once again, what thinking means in the wake of the Anthropocene.
Pedro Aguilera Mellado, Peter Baker & Gabriela Méndez Cota
Vigo, Spain, June 2023
Themes to be Addressed in this Issue Include:
Anthropocene Narrativity and Existential Reflection
Planetary Computation vs Planetary Thinking
De-secularization without Re-theologization in the Anthropocene
Psychoanalysis and the Limits of Anthropocene Storytelling
Material Infrastructures/Technical Conditions of Thinking
Autographic, Trans-autographic Writings of the Anthropocene
Power and Will to Power in the Anthropocene (Trans-humanism)
An-archism, Marranismo and Fugitivity in the Anthropocene
Submit Articles/Essays: No later than 1st September 2023
Open Peer Review: Throughout September
Revised Articles/Essays: October 15th 2023
Publication: Late November-Early December 2023
Please follow the editorial guidelines for submissions
Cohen, T., C. Colebrook & J. Hillis Miller. (2016) Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols. Open Humanities Press.
Moreiras, A. (2021) Infrapolitics. A Handbook. Fordham University Press.
Cerrato, M. (2022) ‘Autography and Infrapolitics’, Philosophy and Society, vol. 34, no. 1, 76-97.
Aguilera-Mellado, P. (2022) Fines infrapolíticos. De la Razón, la Representación y la Narrativa Española Moderna. Valencia: Tirant Humanidades.
Baker, P. (2022) ‘The Writing of Existence in the Latest Work of Alberto Moreiras’ in Philosophy and Society, vol. 34, no. 1, 120-140.
Weinstein, J. and C. Colebrook. (2017) Posthumous Life. Theorizing Beyond the Posthuman. New York: Columbia University Press.
Méndez Cota, G. (2018) ‘Feminismo, infrapolítica, extinción’, Pensamiento al margen 10, 120-141.
Williams, G. (2020) Infrapolitical Passages. Global Turmoil, Narco-Accumulation and the Post-Sovereign State. Fordham University Press.