Why Gaia is not a God of Totality

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Theory, Culture and Society, special issue on Geosocial Formations and the Anthropocene, Volume 34 Numbers 2–3 March–May 2017, pp.61-82.


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?”)


Language: Portuguese
Title: "Como garantir que Gaia não seja um deus da totalidade"
Volume: in Danowski, D., E. Viveiros de Castro e F. Süssekind, Os Mil Nomes de Gaia: Do Antropoceno à Idade da Terra
Publisher: Rio de Janeiro
Date: 2016