Here’s the abstract I’ve just sent in for the keynote I’ll be giving at the Reassembling Democracy: Ritual as Cultural Resource conference in Oslo in February:
Reassembling A Broken World: Toward Practices of Anthropocenic Mindfulness
If democracy is to be reassembled, with the aid of ritualized practices, how is it that it has been disassembled in the first place? Can and should its assembly be retained over the course of its journey from the civic principle organizing an ancient Mediterranean polis to the globalizing (and anti-globalizing) ‘cacocracy’ we find around us today? Is ‘globalization’ perhaps the sign of its demise, and a nascent something — decolonization, ecologization, Gaia, the Chthulucene, or something as yet unclear — the sign of its re-emergence in a new, post-globalist (or post-capitalist) guise?
This talk will take the notion of ‘reassembly’ to be a literal description of what might be done with a broken world, where ‘world’ refers to the relations between a human ‘demos’ and a non, post, or ex-human (as in ex-urban) ‘oikos,’ a ‘demoicracy’ that has fallen into dis- or mis-rule. (Except that ‘oikos,’ the household, dwelling-place, or familial property, is altogether too tame a term for conjuring the partners to be invited toward the reassembly of a new, earthly demos; Stengers’s and Latour’s ‘Gaia’ and Haraway’s ‘Chthulu’ come closer to the mark.)
I begin with a few places at which this brokenness is most evident: ‘zones of alienation,’ to use the term enshrined in the example of Chernobyl, that mark the ironies of technological catastrophe and of what happens when the human is (mostly) removed from the scene of the crime. In light of such zones and the geographies of sacrifice and violence they mark out, I creatively revisit Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths by replacing dukkha (suffering) with the ‘excess suffering’ attributable to anthropocenic trends including atmospheric carbon forcing, plasticization, nuclear militarization, and globalization of a growth-obsessed, colonial-capitalist world system.
I argue that at the heart of this struggle is an effort to create ‘adequate images’ (in Werner Herzog’s terms) for our time, but that, when seen through a process-relational, material-semiotic ontology of the image, this means adequate practices of image making, relational attending, and experimental ‘assemblage.’ A key component in this is the development of forms of ‘engaged anthropocenic mindfulness,’ whereby the affective propensities necessary for a reassembly of such a new demos, and ultimately a new kind of democracy, can be cultivated.
Further information on the conference can be read here. It looks to be fabulous.