Articles

Articles

(177)
Ecological Mutation and Christian Cosmology (a Lecture)
2021

A lecture for the International Congress of the European Society for Catholic Theology, Osnabrück, August 2021
(translated by Sam Ferguson)

Abstract
Since I am unable to speak as a theologian at this conference, I am addressing you as someone who has tried to grasp what the ecological mutation is doing to philosophy; and also as someone who has always been inspired by Catholicism, and has been frustrated at being unable to transmit its message to my loved ones. So in this lecture I shall try to link these two crises: that of ecology and that of transmission. I want to see if a different understanding of the mutation currently under way would make it possible to revisit the message in a different way. I will proceed in three stages: in the first part I will define the contrast between cosmological projection and preaching; in the second part I will list some points where, in my view, the change of cosmology provides a new opening for certain traditional questions of transmission and preaching; finally, I would like to summarise the present situation, as I see it, by presenting a riddle that will, I hope, open up the discussion.
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Ecology & Political Ecology, Religion Studies 🔗
(176)
A Conversation on the Art of Writing with Emmanuele Coccia
2021

Held at La maison de la Poésie in Paris with Emmanuele Coccia, introduced and translated by Stephen Muecke and published on the web by Asymptote the French video is accessible here

Abstract
This is the first time that the philosopher, social scientist, 2013 Holberg Prizewinner, and, as of last month, recipient of a Kyoto Prize Bruno Latour has spoken extensively about his writing practices while denying that he is a ‘writer’ in the strictly literary sense. Drawn out sensitively and expertly by Emanuele Coccia, himself a writer on ecologies, we discover much more about Latour, the writer of networks. He has become such an active ‘agent’ in literary and scholarly networks that he is now perhaps this century’s most cited intellectual. There must be something about what and how he writes that attracts citations, that makes people want to repeat what he says, paraphrase it or comment on it, creating in the end a huge literary network in which the author’s name is centrally suspended. It would be too easy to put it down to genius, or to a passionate engagement with ‘matters of concern’. These no doubt are factors, but what he and his friend Emanuele explore here is a different kind of environment for the writer to inhabit and flourish in, a kind of political ecology that is of planetary significance, but one that is nonetheless firmly grounded and practically negotiable.
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Semiotics & Literature Studies, Social Theory 🔗
(173)
How to understand the "Parliament of Things" thirty years later, Spinozalens lecture
2020

Lecture given for the reception of the Spinozalens prize, Nijmegen, 23 November 2020

Abstract
Lecture given on the 23rd of November at Radboud Reflects Nijmegen at the occasion of the Spinozalens prize 2020. Arjen Kleinherenbrink asks questions after the lecture. BL was asked to reminisce about the argument first proposed in 1989 on a possible « Parliament of Things ». Thirty years later, we have moved from a question which could be solved by an expansion of parliamentary politics — in the way Rousseau’s version of the social contract or Serres’ natural contract. But we have move to a much more tragic situation. The question is no longer to grand rights to non humans, but to accept to be dependent on them. The lecture uses the “Embassy of the North Sea” — sponsor of the prize — to give practical example of the shift in understanding political ecology.
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Ecology & Political Ecology 🔗
(172)
Two postfixes “logy” and “graphy”, but one prefix only: Gaia
2020

A lecture given at the Royal Anthropological Institute conference on Geography and Anthropology, Past Present Future,
16 September 2020

Abstract
I will start from a fairly old, not to say reactionary, formulation of the problem: which people live on which soil? This will recast the question of the symposium, as I understand it, on the new connections between geography and anthropology. I will use the lockdown episode due to the pandemic as a fairly good natural experiment, so to speak, because everyone of us had to undergo a sort of general revision of the two aspects of this problem: we had to relocalise on a different soil because, suddenly, the borders between the global, the national and the local were reshuffled; and we had to rethink quite seriously which sort of people we were, especially because of the sudden suspension of the Economy and the revelation of class differences that had previously remained in the background. So, in effect, the lockdown is adding a very practical, not to say existential dimension, to the academic question of connecting geography and anthropology anew.
Translations
No Other Translations Available
🔗
(170)
Conflicts of planetary proportions – a conversation between Bruno Latour & Dipesch Chakrabarty
2020

Who needs a philosophy of history? A proposition followed by a response from Dipesh Chakrabarty
In the special issue “Historical Thinking and the Human”, Journal of the Philosophy of History 14 (3), 2020, 419–454, eds. Marek Tamm and Zoltán Boldizsár Simon

Abstract
The background of my piece is that Chakrabarty’s introduction of the Planetary triggered a seism in philosophy of history: if the Planetary emerges so late then all the other moments of what used to be called “history” are taking place on a ground that has lost its stability. Neither the World, nor the Globe, nor the Earth, nor the Global — to take a few of the steps he recorded — are actually the places where humans reside. Hence the deep suspicion projected backward as to why the distance separating the places the Moderns inhabited from those they thought they were inhabiting was not recognized earlier. A deep source of inauthenticity is revealed every time we engage more thoroughly in the Anthropocene. Geohistory breaks down any claim to have a human-oriented history. Hence the new ground for critique that is provided by realizing we live in the well named critical zone. Just at the time that critique had lost its steam, the simple fact of being violently transported onto the critical zone gave a new edge to a ferocious revision of Modernity. The civilization that had claimed to be the discoverer of the world was now dispersed over many incommensurable “planets” — the Planetary being one of the names for our present situation. The aim of this piece and of Chakrabarty’s response is to give a spatial and geopolitical ground to counteract the notion of the arrow of time implied so far by philosophies of history.
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Anthropology, Compositionism, Ecology & Political Ecology, Philosophy, Politics 🔗
(169)
Life on Earth is Hard to Spot
2019

Timothy Lenton, Sebastien Dutreuil & Bruno Latour The Anthropocene Review 2020

Abstract
Article accessible on TAC website The triumph of the Gaia hypothesis was to spot the extraordinary influence of Life on the Earth. “Life” is the clade including all extant living beings, as distinct from “life” the class of properties common to all living beings. “Gaia” is Life plus its effects on habitability. Life’s influence on the Earth was hard to spot for several reasons: Biologists missed it because they focused on life not Life; Climatologists missed it because Life is hard to see in the Earth’s energy balance; Earth system scientists opted instead for abiotic or human-centred approaches to the Earth system; Scientists in general were repelled by teleological arguments that Life acts to maintain habitable conditions. Instead we reason from organisms’ metabolisms outwards, showing how Life’s coupling to its environment has led to profound effects on Earth’s habitability. Recognising Life’s impact on Earth and learning from it could be critical to understanding and successfully navigating the Anthropocene.
Translations

Dutch translation
« Uitbreiding van het domein van de vrijheid, of waarom Gaia zo moelijk te begrijpen valt »
Het Parlement Van de Dingen,
2020, Boom, Amsterdam. pp 125-156]

Ecology & Political Ecology, History of Science 🔗
(168)
Seven Objections Against Landing on Earth
2020

"Seven Objections Against Landing on Earth” Introduction to the book Critical Zones — The Science and Politics of Landing on Earth (a volume prepared at the occasion of the exhibition Critical Zones — Observatories for Earthly Politics, ZKM, May-October 2020, MIT Press 2020

Abstract
— “Landing on Earth? Why would anyone attempt to land there? Are we not already on Earth?” Well, not quite! And that’s the circumstance this book tries to present to the inquiring reader: it seems that there has been in the past some misinterpretation over what it means to be earthly. If you believe it means “practical”, “mundane”, “secular”, “material” or even “materialist”, you’re in for a surprise. If members of modern industrial societies prided themselves on being “down to earth”, “rational”, “objective” and above all “realist”, they seem to suddenly discover that they need an Earth to continue to live — and live well. Should they not have carefully surveyed the span, size and location of the very land inside which they were supposed to reside and spread? Is not surveying and mapping what they had been doing when they engaged for centuries in what they still celebrate as the “age of great discoveries”? How odd that, after having assembled so many maps of so many foreign lands, collating so many views from so many landscapes, drawing so many versions of what they called “the Globe”, they now appear taken aback by the novelty of this newly emerging Earth? Of all people, should they not have been the best prepared for such a discovery?
Downloads
Translations

Langue: Japanese
Translator: Yohji Suzuki
Revue: https://we.tl/t-9ywLgj3PAg

Compositionism, Ecology & Political Ecology, History of Science, Politics, Technology, Viualization 🔗
(167)
Issues with Engendering
2019

Traduction par Stephen Muecke of ‘Troubles dans l’engendrement’, Bruno Latour interviewed by Carolina Miranda. Revue du crieur N° 14, La Découverte/Mediapart, 2019. Carolina Miranda could be a Chilean ethnologist and documentary filmmaker. They might have met on the 10th of June 2019 in Chatelperron. The form of the spoken language has been retained as much as possible. (unpublished in English but available on Academia)

Troubles dans l'engendrement
Abstract
CM — This time I’d like to talk to you about politics, rather than about your philosophy or anthropology. You will appreciate the importance of this, for me, coming from Latin America, especially after the publication of Down to Earth. We are all bursting with questions. BL—How do you mean, ‘we’? CM —Lots of people were surprised by this, your first really political book, very committed even, even left wing, and I’m acting as a go-between for a fair number of political groups, activists, not just academics. A lot of people back home are reading you in Spanish. BL —And yet The Politics of Nature came out in 1999, and politics plays an essential role in Inquiry into the Modes of Existence. And if you type ‘politics’ into my webpage, it is the most common word after ‘science.’ Are your friends just finding out that I’m interested in politics? For thirty years I have been worried about the danger of it disappearing as a fundamental practice, and as a unique mode of expression. CM — I know, I know. I hope we will have time to talk about it. But still, you wrote Down to Earth differently and for a different audience. And isn’t it the first time you have drawn connections in such a clear way with classical leftist ideas? BL — They are just more explicit, and yes, in another style.
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Ecology & Political Ecology 🔗
(166)
Politics - A Glimpse at Bodybuilding Afterword to What’s the New Body of the Body Politic? A Cini Dialog
2020

Afterword of the 2017 meeting at Cini Foundation, San Giorgio, Venice

Abstract
How in our right mind could we have the idea of convening in one three-day meeting political philosophers with scientists working on ants, baboons, cells, natural parks, together with historians of capitalism and — how totally bizarre! — specialists of the planet taken as a whole, namely Gaia — plus metaphysicians and historians of science thrown in, plus a bit of legal theory and a lot of social science to steer the pot further? What did we hope to achieve by linking corporate law with embryo development, the management of Amboseli with 19th century investment in railway or the competition between baboons and farmers, with the philosophy of Whitehead and the autotrophy of the earth system? And yet the only way to have a chance to renew the question of the extent, function and future of politics might well be to enter into this strange exercise and, against all odds, to carry it obstinately to the end. Why? Because whatever you expect from the future, you will indeed have to join in some ways in the same polity exactly those various types of beings that were brought to the table in September 2017. It is true that the term “body politik” has been disputed, but is there a better way to flag the goal of the new geohistorical epoch? No matter how disputed is the geological term of Anthropocene, this is exactly the sort of clarification that it triggers and the sort of occasion it opens for natural and social scientists to be able to collaborate. Indeed, it has provided a new breed of diplomats with the underserved chance of an improbable encounter, thanks to the generosity of the Cini Foundation, in one of the most beautiful setting there is: the Biblioteca Longana of San Giorgio.
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Actor-Network-Theory, Ecology & Political Ecology, Social Theory 🔗
(165)
The verifiable image of the world
2006

Entry for the catalog of the show by Sarah Sze in Paris Fondation Cartier, December 2020. Traduit par Lucas Faugère.

La vérifiable image du monde -Sarah Sze avenue du Maine
Abstract
When I first entered Sarah Sze’s New York studio space in October 2016, I stumbled in the half-light upon one of the huge prototypes for Timekeeper, and I experienced something akin to the awe the Emperor of China must have felt watching Father Matteo Ricci unravel world maps before the court—images of the Earth the foreigner had brought from the distant Western world. “Yes, this is where we live; this is how we should understand where we are dwelling; this is at last an image of the world that is both simple and superb, and its beauty lies in its strange and paradoxical accuracy.” I think I stayed for more than an hour in front of the artwork, silently taking it in, as if I was witnessing the birth not of Venus rising from the sea, but of Gaia, emerging from nothingness. In my eyes, this multivariate twinkling of worlds within worlds could bear no other title than “Critical Zone.”
Translations
No Other Translations Available
Compositionism 🔗