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2014, Sat, Oct 18

A Life

with Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Franck Leibovici, and guests

A Matter Theater | © Sholem Krishtalka, 2014

A Matter Theater | © Sholem Krishtalka, 2014

Elizabeth A. Povinelli (Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York) and Franck Leibovici (artist and poet, Paris) with Jan Zalasiewicz (Department of Geology, University of Leicester) and Matt Edgeworth (School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester)

“A life,” impersonalized to a degree zero of thermodynamic activity, expands biopolitical inquiry to the forces that animate and conjure life, as well as those that transform what it means to be living. On the one hand, current neoliberal conditions demand modes of production based on principles fundamentally antithetical to life, arguably energized by a morbid emphasis on death: regimes of inclusion and exclusion, processes of abandonment, and operations demanding superhuman endurance give rise to a biopolitics based on mere survival, where the fittest and strongest will prevail. Examining the practices necessary for recording such narratives of struggle is part of this session’s inquiry. On the other hand, “forms of life” go beyond the human register to include various agencies, such as a scientific idea. The Anthropocene can be approached along these lines, as an idea animated and maintained “in life” through the diverse agents of its generation: scientists, data, sediment, documents, all acting as the productive forces that feed the nascent age, and in turn, are fed by its emergence. It turns out that the virtual quality of a life expands our political and ethical concerns towards a consideration of the complex ecosystems in which forms of life integrate and interact. This session argues for a new ecological approach towards our being in the world, one that involves sustained collaboration between the activist and the scientist, or the ethnographer and the poet.