Zone One – It was New York City

*** The following is a chunk from the Epilogue of my dissertation. In a moment of poetic justice I am cannibalizing it into a sharper reflective section. Who wants to do readings in their conclusion anyway? This was largely influenced by Andrew Hoberek’s excellent review of Whitehead’s zombie novel (the full citation appears in my citations). So if you’re looking for a place to dig into that novel, I would start there. *** continue reading-->

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The Anthropocene, Genre, and Futurity

Not The World Without Us, but the World as Us

The Anthropocene is a spatial behemoth, a cognitive leviathan. I want to start with an example that highlights a problem with the Anthropocene as a genre perhaps, but certainly as concept that deeply impacts the ways we can think about the future of the planet and human life activity. In the summer of 2012, Russ George, of Plakos Inc., and a First Nations village on Haida Gwaii dumped 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of British Columbia in order to encourage algae growth. George Dvorsky of i09.com says, “recent satellite images are now confirming [the iron sulphate’s] effects—an artificial plankton bloom that’s 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square miles) in size. The intention of the project is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the bottom of the ocean.” The decision was made unilaterally by George and First Nations on Haida Gwaii; Environment Canada and the UN are both investigating this rogue geo-engineering project. In The Huffington Post, Stephanie Pappas writes about the implications for large scale adoption of the technique: “Even widespread fertilization of the oceans would result in about 0.5 to 1 gigaton of carbon being shuttled out of the atmosphere annually…That’s about a third to a quarter of the carbon added to the atmosphere each year from man-made and other sources.” Here, the realization that we are fully within the Anthropocene offers those interested a license to act and to take the responsibility for the well being of the planet into their own hands. In the case of this example, George convinced the Haida to contribute over one million dollars to the project. continue reading-->

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Contagion *

Contagion (Steven Soderbergh US 2011). Warner Bros Pictures. NTSC Region 1. Widescreen 16:9. US$31.98.  continue reading-->

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Reactionary Futures: Petrofiction and after Oil

This is the text of a conference paper I delivered at the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies in Waterloo, Ontario January 18th, 2014. I would like to thank the organizers of the conference and my co-panelists Imre Szeman and Adam Carlson. continue reading-->

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Fragment of a Chapter on Survival, Reproduction, and Futurity

In her incredible novel Woman on the Edge of Time (1975), Piercy introduces the protagonist, Consuelo Ramos, during a quiet morning in her New York City apartment. Connie, as she is called by Anglos, gains the reader’s trust and compassion very early on in the novel when she stands up to her niece’s boyfriend-pimp, Geraldo, to protect her from having an abortion. Ramos’s protective outburst is violently turned against her and she is sent back to a mental institution—a feat disgustingly easy to perform by Geraldo who simply had to make up a story about Ramos’ attack to re-institutionalize her. The play of Geraldo’s privileged position against Ramos’ dominated one is palpable. Her return to the mental hospital causes her to reflect on and confront her previous time there, the loss of her daughter, and the structures of power that toss her about like so much flotsam on the surf. Much of the narrative unfolds within the mental institution as Ramos is shuffled back and forth between wards, and, ultimately, selected to take part in an emerging medical program to help patients control their violent tendencies. Piercy charts out, in almost Foucauldian manner, the interworkings of control of the mental hospital and its corollary, the medical industry. Perhaps, what Piercy does best is depict a protagonist who rests at the centre of a number of capillaries of power and forces for the reproduction of the present: on the one hand in terms of identity ethnicity, race, and gender; and, on the other the forces buffeting against such a subject in the 1970s United States racism, poverty, patriarchy, and mental illness.

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