Annual Lecture

CSPS organizes an Annual Lecture series in which distinguished researchers from around the world are invited to share their insights with the Wageningen community.

This year’s annual lecture will be delivered by Erik Swyngedouw.

Erik Swyngedouw

7 June 2018, 16:00 – 17:30

Interrupting the Anthropo-Obscene: The De-politicized Politics of the Anthropocene as Immuno-biopolitical Fantasy

In the presentation, we shall use ‘the Anthropocene’ to denote the proposed new geological era during which humans have arguably acquired planetary geo-physical agency, a term increasingly mobilized by both geologists and Earth Systems scholars. While recognizing a wide-ranging and often contentious debate (see e.g. Castree 2014a, 2014b, 2014c; Hamilton, Bonneuil and Gemenne 2015), we hold that the Anthropocene is a deeply depoliticizing notion that off-stages political possibilities. This off-staging unfolds, we contend, through the creation of what we refer to as ‘AnthropoScenes’, the mise-en-scene of a particular set of narratives that are by no means homogeneous, but which broadly share the effect of off-staging certain voices and forms of acting. Our notion of the Anthropo-obScene then, is our tactic to both attest to and undermine the performativity of the depoliticizing stories of ‘the Anthropocene’.

First, we examine how the AnthropoScenes can be viewed as a set of stages that have constructed and engaged the signifier ‘Anthropocene’. While internally fractured and heterogeneous — ranging from those promoting geo-engineering and Earth System science as an immunological prophylactic to our situation to interlocutors developing more-than-human and object oriented ontologies in search of a new politics — there is an uncanny effect of placing things and beings, human and non-human, within a particular relational straightjacket that does not allow for a remainder or constitutive outside. Second, building on post-foundational political thought, we shall articulate in theoretical terms what is being censored and rendered obscene, and how foregrounding this may hold possible paths toward re-politicization. We mobilize theoretical perspectives that have attempted to cut through the last decades of pervasive de-politicization. These views understand the political in terms of performance and, in an Arendtian manner, as constituted through a space of appearance, a performative public acting-in-common that politicizes subjects and spaces (Arendt 1958: 199). From this perspective, the political is understood as forms of acting subtracted from what is gestured to hold socio-ecological constellations together. In other words, the political is manifested in forms of excessive or supernumerary acting that exceeds the internal relational assemblage from which it emerges.


Previous speakers at the annual lecture:

James Ferguson

9 May 2017, 16:00-18:00

Presence and Social Obligation: An Essay on the Share 

In a recent book, I analyzed the figure of the share as a principle of distribution of social protection payments or “cash transfers” in the global South in general, and in southern Africa in particular.  Noting that today’s existing schemes of distribution are (like all “social” schemes before them) limited by principles of nation-state membership, I concluded with the suggestion that it may be possible to detect new logics of social obligation emerging that work not according to a logic of citizenship and national membership, but according to a principle that I called “presence”.  This paper is an attempt to elaborate this conception, and to develop a more complete account of how such an understanding of presence might provide a basis both for an expanded sense of social obligation and for more inclusionary forms of politics.