Back down to Earth: reassembling Latour’s Anthropocenic geopolitics

Philip Conway

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Abstract

The principal intuition of this article is that Bruno Latour’s explicitly or implicitly ‘geopolitical’ works – strewn as they are across many years and innumerable texts – have not yet been coherently assembled in such a way that their critical interrogation relative to contemporary debates in political geography can gainfully proceed. Such a reassembly must consider ‘earlier,’ ‘later’ and whatever other Latours. Although ‘politics’ per se has, in his more recent works, become just one ‘mode of existence’ among others, every aspect of Latour’s thought has political ramifications. Consequently, his works must be read ‘anthropologically’ – that is to say, in cognisance of the interimplicatedness of every typological strand of ‘the social’ taken altogether. In short, this article attempts not only to read Latour’s works more interconnectedly than have other readers, but, furthermore, to read Latour’s ‘geopolitical’ writings in a more joined-up fashion than he has himself written them. To this end, it (1) introduces the major elements of Latour’s political philosophy, highlighting the importance of geopolitical issues and concepts from his early works onwards; (2) précises his 15 ‘modes of existence,’ laying out the philosophical resources that will be subsequently rewoven; (3) examines six key allies with whom he rearticulates first geo (James Lovelock, Peter Sloterdijk) and politics (Walter Lippmann, John Dewey) separately and then geopolitics (Michel Serres, Carl Schmitt) itself; and, finally, (4) details his Anthropocenic geopolitics conceptually by speculatively intertwining the above with his recent Gifford Lectures. The reassembly attempted – or, rather, initiated – herein is, therefore, neither disinterested nor definitive. It is a working through of the possibilities internal to a specific, albeit sprawling, bundle of texts. It presents a reading both constructive and ‘charitable’ – not in order to obviate critical interrogations but in the hope of provoking a more incisive debate concerning Latour’s works in relation to political geography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-71
JournalGlobal Discourse
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2015

Keywords

  • geopolitics
  • Bruno Latour
  • modes of existence
  • Gaia
  • Anthropocene

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