Elizabeth Povinelli: New Book on Geontopower

978-0-8223-6233-3_prElizabeth Povinelli has a new book forthcoming with Duke, details here. The write up on the book is below, followed by a recent presentation on “Toxic Sovereignties in Late Settler Liberalism” from last October. The talk comes from the book (but you’ll need to fast forward a couple of hours in, to 2:32ish, to get to her talk).

In Geontologies Elizabeth A. Povinelli continues her project of mapping the current conditions of late liberalism by offering a bold retheorization of power. Finding Foucauldian biopolitics unable to adequately reveal contemporary mechanisms of power and governance, Povinelli describes a mode of power she calls geontopower, which operates through the regulation of the distinction between life and nonlife and the figures of the desert, the animist, and the virus. Geontologies examines this formation of power from the perspective of Indigenous Australian maneuvers against the settler state. And it probes how our contemporary critical languages—Anthropogenic climate change, plasticity, new materialism, antinormativity—often unwittingly transform their struggles against geontopower into a deeper entwinement within it. A woman who became a river, a snake-like entity who spawns the fog, plesiosaurus fossils and vast networks of rock weirs: in asking how these different forms of existence refuse incorporation into the vocabularies of western theory Povinelli provides a revelatory new way to understand a form of power long self-evident in certain regimes of settler late liberalism but now becoming visible much further.

Anthropocene re-writes: democracy, economics, liberalism

Peter Brown, from McGill University, has published a couple of new pieces on, respectively, democracy and economics in the Anthropocene. These work in some interesting ways to the piece I noted earlier from Andrew Dobson on whether resource abundance wasn’t what allowed liberalism to become, as Immanuel Wallerstein put it, “triumphant”.

Here is the opening salvo from Peter’s article on democracy in the Anthropocene, it came out from the Center for Humans and Nature. The other is a pdf download on ethics and economics in Anthropocene that came out in the fall issue of Teilhard Studies.

“Contemporary science radically reframes a fundamental idea at the heart of democratic theory and practice: that each person is free to act as he or she wishes so long as that action does not harm other persons. Two important sources of this idea are John Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859). Locke held that our religious beliefs are internal matters and hence should be beyond the legitimate reach of the state, whose principal tasks are external—to secure “life, liberty, and property.” Mill held that the state has no right to interfere in what he called “purely self-regarding acts”—though interpreting this phrase has proved contentious, even for Mill. Despite the pedigree of these two philosophers, the assumptions their ideas contain have become problematical.”