115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Anthrocities: Refusing the Anthropocene

Ted Geier, University of California, Davis

"Anthrocity" denotes a static cultural ecology of constant activity in the "Anthropocene" human-geologic scale. Anthrocity is the holistic neoliberal condition, economizing life and sedimenting the half-lives of humanity. Its "work-arounds"—pragmatic, practical solutions—cannot undo the work that led the world to this. Which works refuse anthrocity's interminable diagnostic work?

Proposal: 

The Anthropocene undoes—works through—a world articulated as a technical thing unless we refuse the categorization of world object, calculable production. There is not enough work to be done to save the world that is to be worked on, identified, lost, or mourned. This material recognition takes the conditions of “The Anthropocene” quite seriously: Human labor already projects a life and impossible death into the future as an unsettling scalar rhetoric of half-lives. But atrophic modernity is the wasteland-without-content, a vacant mass corpse without the subject of a life to be risked yet wholly conceived, articulated and formed, unapproachable, and incommensurable with the human. Life’s particularity defines precarity against industrial globality and technical universality.

The diminution of fact in the contemporary anthrocity is less an epistemological crisis, more a rhetorical fad. It coasts upon the constantly functioning and improving culture industry that approves the practically “possible” while sensationalizing threats to order such as protest, action, or other forms of critique. This static cultural ecology is, clearly, one of constant motion and branding. Anthropocene technicity works from the bomb shelter of analysis—to take Beckett’s Endgame to heart—on a lifeless body and an ‘all’ evacuated of value in its formal existence, not in any singular death, and given over to economized forms of non-life. Labor presumes someone is doing/has done something. But the Anthropocene forms time as a human composition of geologic scale, a supposed ‘mere’ measurement and a mechanism of data control, sedimenting the work of humanity as the world itself. Yet there is no work to be done. This talk will articulate some of these conceptual turns to refuse the figure of Anthropocene performance: an endless diagnostic and testimonial work assured of immediate obsolescence that holds no answer to the question of what is to be done, and perhaps ought not.