Friday, 13 March 2015

"Taking Gaia seriously in Bruno Latour’s Geopolitics: comment on Philip Conway’s ‘Back Down to Earth’"—Simon Dalby

Simon Dalby's reply to my research article on Bruno Latour's geopolitics is now online. The first paragraph:
Reading Philip Conway’s (2015) brave effort to tease out Latour’s geopolitical themes and think through the possible formulations that might emerge from an engagement with both his anthropology of the moderns and his facing Gaia ideas in the Gifford Lectures, one is struck by both the complexity of the conceptualizations and the urgency of dealing with them too. Simple assumptions about politics and nature won’t do anymore; we are past the point where colonial concepts can help. They are much more obviously part of the current problematique that needs urgent attention than they are useful theoretical or political constructs. Their implicit ethnocentrisms matter, as do their presuppositions that expropriations and appropriations in the cause of progress, the common good, if not simply the triumph of modernity, are simply de riguer in a world where apparently moderns should rule given their obvious superiority of technology, law, science and of course Reason. The Gaian engagement that Latour has undertaken and that Conway explicates in detail has no place for such metropolitan hubris; its categories are the problem to be addressed
As before, if anyone wants a copy and doesn't have institutional access just drop me an email.

It is a nice comment that reflects Simon's own work on environmental geopolitics over the past two decades but also the new challenges faced by political geography. The main critical point he makes is that I might not have done enough to draw out the differences between the kind of geopolitics I am articulating in this article and the classical geopolitics of Kjellén through Kissinger to Kaplan. I completely accept the necessity of a more in-depth intellectual historical approach to geopolitics. I'm hoping to undertake precisely this as part of my PhD project (that is currently under review for funding!). It's a far bigger task than I could have accomplished in this article; however, it's something that does interest me and that I hope to develop in the near future (indeed, my previous post on Alexander Humboldt relates to this historical work in that he precedes the post-1870 era of reactionary politics and harsh disciplinarity and thus possibly offers some insight into paths not taken).

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