Articles

Articles

(138)
How to Make Sure that Gaia is not a God of Totality
2014

Article prepared for the meeting The Thousand Names of Gaia, Rio de Janeiro.

Abstract
When I meet a geologist, a geographer, a geochemist, or some expert in geopolitics, after a few minutes of conversation about what sort of topic they research, I conclude: “Then, why don’t you say that you are, in fact” (and here I adapt my sentence to each specialty) “a Gaialogist, a Gaiagrapher, a Gaiachemist, or someone deeply involved in Gaiapolitics”. And then I observe with some amusement how they react to this falsely innocent change in the prefix. After all, geo- and Gaia share exactly the same etymology, both come from the same entity Gè, actually a chtonic divinity much older than Olympian gods and goddesses, the primitive power who is sometimes addressed with the very apt epithet of Thousand Folds. The reactions of the scientists thus addressed are hugely entertaining: they position themselves, according to my admittedly small sample, along a gradient that goes from utter incomprehension (“what did you say?”), then to indignation (“Me? A Gaia something, no way, absolutely not”) to surprise (“after all, why not? Yes, in a certain sense, if you say so”) to complete approval, as if this was somewhat obvious and no longer in need of being stressed that they work on Gaia (“yes of course, I have devoted my whole professional life to it, why do you ask?”)
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Compositionism, Ecology & Political Ecology, Social Theory
(137)
« How Better to Register the Agency of Things: Part 1, Semiotics », Part 2, Ontology»
2014

« How Better to Register the Agency of Things: Part 1,Semiotics », « « How Better to Register the Agency of Things: Part 2 : Ontology», Tanner Lectures, Yale, March 2014 (in print Tanner Lectures, 2014).

Abstract
It is under the notion of “agency” that I have regrouped some of the insights I gained from my work in science studies: hence the title: “How better to register the agency of things”. Tonight, Agency-One will deal more with semiotics, that is, with the trajectories of meaning. Tomorrow night, Agency-Two will deal with a more difficult aspect, namely with ontology, or rather “ontonomy” (not autonomy), that is, with the crossing of what is and what should be, with the drawing of the rules of what is. In both lectures, I will try to speak as if it was possible to devise a common language for those who thought themselves to be in two different and mostly opposite camps until they have been submitted to the same attacks by a third party bent on closing down all centers of learning. It is thus an exercise in diplomacy: can we ally together so as to resist a new enemy?
Translations
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Semiotics & Literature Studies
(136)
On some of the affects of capitalism
2014

Lecture given at the Danish Royal Academy of Science on Wednesday the 26th of February 2014

Abstract
I will take capitalism to mean not a thing in the world, but a certain way of being affected when trying to think through this strange mixture of miseries and luxuries we encounter when trying to come to terms with the dizzying interplays of “goods” and “bads”. Capitalism is a concept that has been invented to help absorb this odd mixture of enthusiasm for the cornucopia of riches that has lifted billions of people out of abject poverty and the indignation, rage and fury in response to the miseries visited on billions of other people. Especially troubling to me is the feeling of helplessness that is associated with any discussion of economics and that I have so much trouble reconciling with what I consider science’s and politics' main effects, these being the opening of new possibilities and the provision of margins to manoeuvre.
Translations
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Modes of existence, Social Theory
(133)
Waking up from 'conjecture' as well as from 'dream' — a presentation of AIME
2013

Keynote lecture given at the American Anthropological Association Meeting, 2013, Chicago, the 21st of November. Accepted by Tsantsa, special issue on the ontological turn in anthropology directed by Frédéric Keck.

Abstract
As every ethnographer knows, in addition to the many blunders every one of us commits in the course of our fieldwork, there exist also graver mistakes when we sense a mistaken regime of reality granted to an entity. It is at those moments, usually the most revealing in the course of our inquiries, when we try to repair broken relations by some innovative move to define the status of the contrasting realities that have been open to misinterpretation. During the last quarter century I have attempted, quite systematically, to increase the number of templates by which the so-called Moderns account for themselves; not, to be sure, in their official representation (they remain staunch adepts of the OS operating system and will swear that they are obedient naturalists), but by looking for the many occasions where they express dissatisfaction with such an official view of themselves. What I think I have documented are the protestations by many different people that a skewed template is being used to account for the mode of existence of the agencies that are most attached to them.
Translations
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Anthropology, Modes of existence
(132)
Another Way to Compose the Common World - The AIME project
2013

Paper prepared for the session ‘The Ontological Turn in French Philosophical Anthropology’, An Executive Session of the AAA Annual Meeting, Chicago, November 23, 2013, in 2014 | Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4 (1): 301–307, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau4.1.016

Abstract
If it is notably difficult to do the anthropology of those who invented the anthropology of ''others'', it is in part because they have managed to avoid doing their own. This most primitive and most aboriginal lack of reflexivity makes any sort of self-examination a skewed enterprise. This is why it is fairly useless to try to distinguish philosophy from anthropology when one wishes to find one's way through such an entangled jungle. You need anthropology - associated whenever possible with its set of ethnographic methods – to overturn philosophy’s claims that it has already reached universality; and you need philosophy – with its own set of interpretative skills – to make sure that anthropology’s claims to scientific status are not a form of provisional and provincial metaphysics. Each discipline spurs the other to restart its inquiries into the collectives that are constantly enmeshed by conquest, commerce or war.
Translations
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Anthropology, Compositionism, Modes of Existence
(131)
Telling Friends from Foes at the Time of the Anthropocene
2013

Lecture prepared for the EHESS-Centre Koyré- Sciences Po symposium "Thinking the Anthropocene" Paris, 14th-15th November, 2013.

Abstract
In spite of its pitfalls, the concept of Anthropocene offers a powerful way, if used wisely, to avoid the danger of naturalization while ensuring that the former domain of the social, or that of the “human”, is reconfigured as being the land of the Earthlings or of the Earthbound. Like Aesop’s tongue, it might deliver the worst – or worse still, much of the same; that is, the back and forth movement between, on the one hand, the “social construction of nature” and, on the other, the reductionist view of humans made of carbon and water, geological forces among other geological forces, or rather mud and dust above mud and dust. But it might also direct our attention toward the end of what Whitehead called “the Bifurcation of nature,” or the final rejection of the separation between Nature and Human that has paralyzed science and politics since the dawn of modernism. The lecture is dedicated to Clive Hamilton.
Translations

Language: Portuguese
Journal: Etnografica
Translator: Paulo Mendes
Date:

Ecology & Political Ecology
(130)
War and Peace in an Age of Ecological Conflicts
2013

In Revue Juridique de l'Environnement, Vol.1, 2014, pp. 51-63 (Written originally as a lecture at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, Vancouver 23rd of September, 2013.)

Abstract
Let me start with the notion of “conflicts”. I think it is fair to say that about all the questions that I am going to deal with you tonight, we are divided. Not only divided among different parties, different factions, religions, ideologies, but also, and maybe more deeply, divided inside yourself. I certainly feel such a division and it is from this situation of internal conflict that I take the courage to address you tonight. What I am going to do is to attempt at tracing with you some of the many lines of dissent that today constitute the warring parties whose disputes require new forms of political attitudes. Or rather of geo-political attitudes, provided you take the prefix “geo” in its etymological meaning of “Earth”. As we will see, geopolitics is not about human politics overlaid on the static frame of the Earth, but politics about contradictory portions, visions, aspects of the Earth and its contending humans. Such is the new situation for which we don’t seem to be well equipped intellectually
Translations

Language: Portuguese
Journal: Revista de Antropologia
Date:

Language: Greek
Journal: Epekeina Editions
Date:

Ecology & Political Ecology
(129)
Reception speech for the Holberg Prize
2013

Speech for the reception of the Holberg Memorial Prize, Bergen, June 2013. (Unpublished).

Abstract
Minister, Excellency, Officers of the Ludwig Holberg Memorial Fund, Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, friends and family. There is something slightly reassuring in having people like me receiving an award such as the one you have decided to bestow on my work tonight. Through sheer labour, ordinary people may achieve something that no one could have predicted from the way their mind works or from their personality. Having worried all my life about the fact that a white provincial male of bourgeois extraction and of limited intellectual skills could not possibly be the real target of the thoughts that had traversed his desk since he was sixteen, I am now totally reassured: everyone is able to tackle problems of vastly disproportionate size and even have the good fortune, if not to solve them, at least to give them a more reasonable shape. Reassured that it is not me but those slightly reshaped problems that are rewarded tonight, it is to them that I may now safely turn.
Translations
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(128)
Agency at the time of the Anthropocene
2013

"Agency at the time of the Anthropocene", in New Literary History Vol. 45, pp. 1-18, 2014. (Originally written as lecture given at the occasion of the Holberg Memorial Prize Symposium 2013: “From Economics to Ecology”, Bergen, June 4th, with the title « Which Language Should we Talk with Gaia?».)

Abstract
In an academic setting such as this symposium, I don’t need to review with you those new emotions with which the Earth is now agitated in addition to its usual motions. Nor do I need to explain why facts of geology have become news and why a piece of information about Charles David Keeling’s data at Mauna Loa has shifted from the “science and technology section” of the newspaper to a new section reserved for the damning tragedies of the Earth. We all agree that, far from being a Galilean body stripped of any other movements than that of billiard balls, the Earth has now taken back all the characters of a full-fledged actor. Indeed, as Chakrabarty has proposed to say, it has become once again an agent of history, or rather, an agent of what I have proposed to call our common geostory.
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Ecology & Political Ecology, Semiotics & Literature Studies
(126)
Biography of an Inquiry - About a Book on Modes of Existence
2012

(126) « Biography of an Inquiry - About a Book on Modes of Existence", (translated from the French by Catherine Porter), Social Studies of Science Vol. 43 n° 2 pp. 287–301.

Biographie d'une enquête - à propos d'un livre sur les modes d'existence
Abstract
Since the project on Modes of Existence has been long in coming and has connection with all the successive field works done by the author, the paper tries to retrace the main steps that have led to the project. It shows that this project precedes the work done in actor-network theory and explains the link between philosophy and anthropology through the peculiar notion of mode of existence.
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Modes of existence, Philosophy