Gastón Gordillo interviewed by Léopold Lambert of The Funambulist

bulldozers3If you enjoyed the interview with Gastón Gordillo on this site a few weeks ago (available here); then you will also like the new podcast interview by Léopold Lambert of The Funambulist at The Archipelago. Gastón discusses more about his work on ruins, both in the forthcoming book Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction and in a recent piece at The Funambulist on Albert Speer’s ruin theory of architecture.

An interview with Elizabeth Grosz “Ontogenesis and the Ethics of Becoming” by Kathryn Yusoff

liz-grosz-photo-1.240.337.sOntogenesis and the Ethics of Becoming: an interview with Elizabeth Grosz by Kathryn Yusoff

Elizabeth Grosz is a feminist philosopher and Professor of Women’s Studies at Duke University. Her work has been important for geographers because of its engagements with spatial practices, volatile and sexed bodies, and the arts of cosmic engagement. More recently, audiences have been turning to Grosz’ work because of its explicit engagement with the inhuman forces of the earth and the explication of the forms of “geopower“. In this interview Grosz discusses her new book about questions of ontology and ethics, which draws on the philosophies of the Stoics, Spinoza, Nietzsche to address materialist idealism.

Elizabeth Grosz: I am currently working on a book, sort of on ethics, but more directly about questions of ontology. The book will include a chapter each on the Stoics, Spinoza, Nietzsche (who I can’t seem to stop writing about), Deleuze, Gilbert Simondon and Raymond Ruyer. It doesn’t have a title yet but I am nearing the end, slowly. What I am interested in is thinking about ethics, not in terms of morality, a code of conduct or a set of principles to regulate conduct from the outside, but in terms of the exploration of becoming, what kind of a new ontology – an ontogenesis – we must develop in order to understanding the becomings that underlie and make being possible. Each chapter addresses a philosopher, or a group of philosophers (in the case of the Stoics) who articulates a world-view, an analysis of what is or can be, in which the question of the limits, mortality, and smallness of the human relative to the vast and powerful laws of the universe is the primary focus. Moreover, each of these philosophers, while appearing to be materialists, and addressing questions about the world through materialism, remain attached to a concept of the ideal, ideality, or conceptuality that is irreducible to anything material. Each can be considered, in the limited terms of any binarisation of mind and body, as an paradoxical idealist materialist or materialist idealist. In other words, each articulates what a pure materialism is unable to explain; each remains committed to the activity of ideas and their direct impact on and transformation of matter through their energetic and informational flows into forms of knowledge as well, without understanding or reducing ideas to simply bodily or neurological movements. Each thus established the non-material reality of ideas, the way in which the universe generates orders, orientations, directions or sense as it elaborates its own complexities. Taken together, these thinkers establish a kind of genealogy of thinking about informed matter and the relations to life forms that depend on it and extend it each in their own ways. Continue reading this interview here

Interview with Łukasz Stanek about Henri Lefebvre, Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment

Łukasz Stanek is author of Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory and editor of Team 10 East: Revisionist Architecture in Real Existing Modernism. A previously unknown manuscript of Henri Lefebvre’s, Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment has been edited by Łukasz and translated by Robert Bonanno, and will shortly be published by University of Minnesota Press. Łukasz kindly agreed to answer some questions about this book and its relation to Lefebvre’s work, and tells the fascinating story of the manuscript’s re-discovery after forty years of neglect.

imageStuart Elden: In your authored book, Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory, you convincingly demonstrate that Lefebvre’s work on space and urban questions should be seen as much an engagement with planners, urban developers and architects, as with philosophers and theorists. Could you say something about that project, and how it led you to look at archival materials as much as Lefebvre’s published works and those of his academic interlocutors?

Łukasz Stanek: My interest in Lefebvre’s theory goes back to an empirical case: Nowa Huta, a new town constructed by the Polish socialist regime since the late 1940s close to Kraków. I was a student of architecture in Kraków in the early 2000s, and I was very intrigued by Nowa Huta, both because of its excellent urban plan and because of the fact that the development of this city was dependent on its mass media representations. In fact, since the beginnings of Nowa Huta and long after its inclusion into the administrative unity of Kraków, its development was defined by a logic of “catching up” with its mass media image as the young, airy, modern, humane, green, wealthy, atheist, socialist city. Yet after the end of socialism in 1989, this image of Nowa Huta clashed with an opposite one: that of the city of retired workers and unemployed youth, with crumbling infrastructure and an ecological catastrophe.

continue reading here.

Elizabeth Povinelli – ‘The Four Figures of the Anthropocene’

(via Synthetic Zero) – and a reminder of the interview with Elizabeth Povinelli on this site in March 2014, conducted by Mat Coleman and Kathryn Yusoff.

Discussion forum on Henri Lefebvre ‘Dissolving city, planetary metamorphosis’ – paper and intro open access, and five online commentaries

Figure_1.26 Society and Space Volume 32 Number 2 included a short, previously untranslated piece by Henri Lefebvre, along with an introduction to the essay by David Wachsmuth and Neil Brenner.

Lefebvre is of course well-known for his books on the city, space and the world, including the English translations and collections Writings on CitiesThe Urban RevolutionThe Production of Space; and State, Space, World. His previously-unpublished manuscript  Towards an Architecture of Enjoyment is forthcoming, and an interview with the editor Łukasz Stanek will appear on this site in due course.

We have made the Lefebvre essay and the Wachsmuth & Brenner introduction open access for two months and on this site there are five commentaries on Lefebvre’s brief, still-timely, and provocative essay.

David Wachsmuth, Neil Brenner – Introduction to Henri Lefebvre’s “Dissolving city, planetary metamorphosis” (open access until 18 June 2014)

Henri Lefebvre – Dissolving city, planetary metamorphosis (open access until 18 June 2014)

Ross Exo Adams – Lefebvre and Urbanization

Stuart Elden – Globe-World-Planet

Stefan Kipfer – Lefebvre’s Metamorphosis: 1989-2006-2014

Adam David Morton – The Survival of Henri Lefebvre

Anne Vogelpohl – Recognizing Paradoxes in the Struggle for a Right to the City

Interview with Gastón Gordillo – author of Landscapes of Devils and the forthcoming Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction

gordillo, soc&space interviewGastón Gordillo is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and the author of several books including Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Argentinean Chaco and the forthcoming Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction. He also runs the wide-ranging blog Space and Politics.

Stuart Elden: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Gastón. You’re a Professor of Anthropology, but your work blends political, historical and ethnographic work, with a strong interest in geographical questions and debates in philosophy and social theory. Could you say something about your academic background and how you came to be interested in these diverse issues?

Gastón Gordillo: Many thanks for the interview Stuart. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to talk about my work at Society and Space. Your question goes to the heart of what I’m trying to do with my research and writing, in terms of blending perspectives from different disciplines. My interest in critical theory and philosophy began when I was an anthropology undergraduate at the University of Buenos Aires in the second half of the 1980s. Argentina was then going through a “democratic spring,” right after the end of the military dictatorship, and the university was then an intellectually effervescent place, with many stimulating theoretical and political debates going on. Partly as a reaction against the asphyxiating political environment I grew up in as a teenager under the military regime, in which the public expression of left-wing ideas or concepts could get you in trouble or simply killed, as an undergrad I was quickly drawn to Marxist theory, which at the time was the dominant paradigm at the university. I had initially decided to study anthropology, like many others at that age, seduced by a romantic image of this discipline as the study of exotic cultures, influenced for instance by Carlos Castaneda’s best-selling books on shamanism. My discovery of Marxist theory and philosophy was a political awakening of sorts, and also gave me tools to better understand my earlier politicization during high-school, when many of my classmates and I were part of an underground student union at the end of the dictatorship. So while I studied anthropology as an undergraduate, my engagement with Marx, Althusser, Adorno, Horkheimer also made me think beyond anthropology. I also had excellent history professors who taught me to appreciate history, and its importance for anthropology.

continue reading here

Interview with Emily Brady on her book, The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature

SublimeEmily Brady’s The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature published by Cambridge University Press in 2013, explores the meaning of the concept of the sublime and its implications for metaphysics, aesthetics, ethics, and the environment. An historical discussion is provided in the first part of the book, providing a historical survey with a careful reading which begins in the eighteenth century with a special focus on Kant, and followed by Romanticism and John Muir’s wilderness aesthetic. The second part of the book shows the relevance of the concept to contemporary discussions in philosophy such as aesthetics and the arts, and environmental ethics. A full review of this book, by Sandra Shapshay, can be found at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

A member of the Society and Space board, Brady is the author of Aesthetics of the Natural Environment (Edinburgh 2003), the co-author of Environment and Philosophy (Routledge 2000) and the co-editor of Aesthetic Concepts: Essays after Sibley (Oxford 2001), Humans in the Land: The Ethics and Aesthetics of the Cultural Landscape (Oslo Academic Press 2008), and Human-Environment Relations: Transformative Values in Theory and Practice (Springer 2012). She has published numerous articles and book chapters mostly around the topics of aesthetics, ethics, and the environment. Some of her most recent publications include “Imagination and Freedom in the Kantian Sublime” (2013), “Aesthetic Value and Wild Animals” (2014), and “Aesthetic Value, Ethics and Climate Change” (forthcoming 2014). Brady is Professor of Environment and Philosophy at the Institute of Geography and the Lived Environment and an Academic Associate in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. This interview was conducted by Vahid Jafarzadehdarzi, a doctoral student in philosophy at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Vahid Jafarzadehdarzi: Thank you, Professor Brady for doing this interview; it was a pleasure reading your book. You spend a great a deal of time on Kant’s approach to the sublime. You appreciate the way he relates nature, aesthetics, and morality in his view of the concept, and there finds a connection between the self and nature. Why is his view so important in understanding the core meaning of the sublime as you say? What does he do with the eighteenth century reading of the concept?

Emily Brady: Thank you. As I see it, it’s important to reassess Kant’s theory of the sublime – for Kant scholarship as well as for a proper understanding of the history of the sublime and its relevance today. Many interpretations of Kant’s theory argue for a human-centred sublime, where humans appear to recognize their power over nature through an experience of their own freedom or autonomy. I contest this reading of the sublime as self-admiration and show that for Kant, our distinctive positioning with respect to the rest of nature reveals a deep connection to it, as something metaphysically and actually greater than ourselves. There are two other reasons why his theory is especially significant. Kant focuses largely on nature widely understood – human and non-human nature. The overall argument of the book is that the historical and contemporary sublime is largely associated with natural environments. Also, his theory is, arguably, more philosophically rich and sophisticated compared to other early theories of the sublime.

Often, when people discuss Kant’s theory they neglect the many discussions of the sublime that preceded his own. Eighteenth-century aesthetics in Britain is especially interesting and one can see a range of influences on Kant. Once we get a handle on them, interestingly, Kant’s theory appears less original, though insightful enough!

Continue here.

Frederic Neyrat “The Political Unconscious of the Anthropocene” Interview by Elizabeth R. Johnson

The Political Unconscious of the Anthropocene: A conversation with Frederic Neyrat by Elizabeth R. Johnson

With translation assistance from David B. Johnson

Frédéric NeyratFrédéric Neyrat is a French philosopher and former program director at the Collège International de Philosophie. He is currently a visiting professor at the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While his work largely remains to be translated into English, his writings–which integrate cultural theory, biopolitics and immune-politics, Marxist political economy, and critiques of liberal eco-politics–offer productive intersections with much of the ongoing work in critical theory and human-environment geography in the Anglo world.

His recent work includes books on Heidegger (L’indemne. Heidegger et la destruction du monde, 2008), eco-politics, immuno-politics and catastrophism (Biopolitique des castastrophes, 2008), Antonin Artaud (Instructions pour une prise d’âmes: Artaud et l’envoûtement occidental, 2009), capitalism and ecopolitics (Clinamen: Flux, absolu et loi spirale, 2011), terrorism (Terrorisme: Un concept piégé, 2011), Jean-Luc Nancy (Le communisme existentiel de Jean-Luc Nancy, 2013), and a manifesto for philosophy (Atopies, forthcoming 2014). He is also the author of several essays on ecopolitics and the Anthropocene and is a member of the editorial board at Multitudes. Neyrat maintains the blog Atopies.

Elizabeth Johnson: Your scholarship integrates cultural theory, biopolitics, Marxist political economy and critiques of liberal eco-politics. A segment of critical human-environment geography has for some time been occupied with this confluence of critical theory and eco-politics, but this is perhaps only recently becoming more mainstream in academic scholarship. Could you tell us a bit about your background coming out of France and your work with Multitudes. What commitments ground the synthetic nature of you work?

Frédéric Neyrat: You’re perfectly right to mention the journal Multitudes, which was in the 2000s a real and powerful intellectual laboratory. During this period, it became crystal clear to me that the study of “cognitive capitalism”, that is to say, of contemporary capitalism based on the production and the exploitation of knowledge, was inseparable from a questioning of environmental disasters and of new biopolitical technologies. My book Biopolitics of Catastrophes was devoted to this triple perspective, simultaneously economic, environmental, and biopolitical. Yet the relation between these three dimensions is anything but obvious: how is it possible to reconcile the idea that contemporary power produces and enhances life, that is to say the biopolitical perspective, with environmental studies showing the degradation of the conditions of life? How can we reconcile the euphoric discourse that analyzes capitalism via the notion of “the immaterial” (knowledge, the powerful cooperative web of brains of the “general intellect”, all the concepts coming from Operaismo and post-Operaismo[1]), with the necessity to materially consider the industry of the immaterial and its material ecological footprint? Do these very material feet and supposedly immaterial brains not belong to the same world? I could only answer these questions by invoking, to use an expression from Freud, the “other scene” of biopolitics, economy, and ecology: something that I call – combining Freud, Derrida, Sloterdijk, and Esposito – an immunological unconscious, or the fantasy of an absolute immunization.

Continue reading here

Interview with Elizabeth Povinelli with Mat Coleman and Kathryn Yusoff

978-0-8223-5084-2_prSociety and Space Editorial Board members, Mat Coleman and Kathryn Yusoff interview Elizabeth Povinelli about her recent and future work on the question of biopolitics, the Anthropocene and neoliberalism.

Elizabeth Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University. Her writing has focused on developing a critical theory of late liberalism that would support an anthropology of the otherwise. Most recently, Povinelli is the author of Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (Duke University Press, 2011), The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Geneology, and Carnality (Duke University Press, 2006), and she is currently working on Geontologies: Indigenous Worlds in the New Media and Late Liberalism, the third and last volume of Dwelling in Late Liberalism. In this series of monographs she is interested in the ways that liberal discourses about alternative social worlds deflect ethical and social responsibility for the crushing, if at times imperceptible harms experienced by communities living at the margins. The volumes integrate political theory and philosophy, anthropology, and cultural and legal studies with ethnographic encounters in Indigenous Australia and queer America in order to understand the transformations that have taken place in how liberal regimes recognize and govern social difference in the wake of the anti-colonial and postcolonial movements—and in the face of the continual emergence of alternative social worlds.

Mat Coleman: In your recent work, and specifically in Economies of Abandonment, you pose a challenge to many theorists of neoliberalism in the sense that you identify the ‘cultural’ problem of late liberalism, i.e. a violent politics of cultural recognition in the wake of anti- and post- colonial social movements, as diagonal to the economic project(s) of neoliberalism as such. Your suggestion is that it is inadequate to see a cultural politics of late modernity as a sort of superstructural ephemera to late modern regimes of accumulation. But what exactly does your disaggregation of late liberalism and neoliberalism allow you to do which other theorizations of neoliberalism, which treat accumulation and regulation together, cannot do?

Elizabeth Povinelli: I must admit I have changed my use of the phrase late liberalism since publishing Economies of Abandonment. Whereas, you’re right, there I distinguished late liberalism from neoliberalism, I now use the phrase “late liberalism” to indicate a period, or development, in “liberalism” that stretches loosely between the late 1950s and the 00s. So late liberalism is meant as a way of periodizing and spatializing liberal formations. The argument is that from the 50s through the 70s, liberal governments—liberal governmentality—were shaken by two severe legitimacy crises. On the one hand, anticolonial, Native, and radical social movements shook the legitimacy of paternalistic liberalism and, on the other hand, Keynesian stagflation shook the legitimacy of the capitalist management of markets. From the perspective of these two slow moving events the politics of recognition and economics of neoliberalism should be seen as strategic containments of potentially more radical futures. It’s unclear whether in the wake of 9/11 multiculturalism remains the key mode of containing the radical otherwise and in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 neoliberal market forms will mutate into something else.

Continue reading here

[i] For a discussion of Althusser’s influence for instance on Harvey see: Resnick S, Wolff R, 2004, “Dialectics and Class in Marxian Economics: David Harvey and Beyond” New School Economic Review 1 59-72, esp. 60-62.

[ii] See also David R. Roediger, 2007, The Wages of Whiteness (London: Verso). .

[iii] Williams R, 1973, “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory” New Left Review 82 3-16.

Watch out too for Mat Coleman’s forthcoming review essay of Economies of Abandonment in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Interview with Justin Clemens on his book, Psychoanalysis is an Antiphilosophy


Photo of Justin Clemens by Nicolas Healey-Walton

Justin Clemens, a Society and Space board member and faculty at the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, discusses his book Psychoanalysis is an Antiphilosophy.  The book was published last spring with Edinburgh University Press.  Hot on the heels of this interview is another book by Justin, coauthored with A. J. Bartlett and Jon Roffe, also with Edinburgh UP to be published next month: Lacan Deleuze Badiou.

psycho is anti coverMARY:  Your book is a collection of essays that all have a common target:  the idea that philosophy can apprehend all forms of knowledge.  Could you tell us how you became motivated by this argument?

JUSTIN: One of the things I found so fantastic and liberating about encountering psychoanalysis was its reintroduction of matter and the body into thought, whether according to the routines of the pleasure-principle, sexual difference, death drive, or what-have-you. All the great psychoanalytic thinkers — Freud himself, Ferenczi, Klein, Winnicott, Lacan, etc. — engage in extraordinary experiments in how, by means of an entirely new discursive practice, new thoughts of the paradoxes of thinking can arise, paradoxes that undermine knowledge routines without simply being sceptical. On the contrary, psychoanalysis is an eminently constructive project.

The work of Jacques Lacan is exemplary here. I really like that he targets the irreducibility of the phantoms of absolute knowledge, even in psychoanalysis itself. So he proliferates not only radical and shocking propositions about this phenomenon, but forms of utterance that compromise themselves as an integral aspect of their functioning. Let me give three connected instances. First, Lacan wants to show how philosophy (as providing paradigms for all sorts of “knowledge” more generally) is essentially linked to expropriation of the symbolic powers of others; power and knowledge are entwined, and apparent resistance is itself a key part of the motor of power-knowledge (this is in fact, as Lacan points out, an early psychoanalytic recognition of Freud’s). Second, Lacan shows how the ontologies of philosophy are themselves dependent upon a logic of counting, and above all upon a kind of cruel mysticism of the One, of the unit, of the totality, of the whole; here, he shows that the philosophical thought of Being is first dependent on a lack of Being (in the terms provided by key philosophers themselves, not as some silly assertion by Lacan himself) and second upon their concomitant unthinking adherence to a form of Oneness. Third, Lacan constantly mocks his own pretensions regarding such propositions, e.g., ‘If you knew everything that I was ignorant of, well then you would know everything.’ But this should also alert us to the fact that psychoanalysis is not at all a bundle of doctrines (except in the dreams of its enemies, some of whom are its eminent practitioners), but a new practice of care for the other through free association.

To lose the abstractions for a moment, these are some reasons as to why the chapters of my book return to quite fundamental yet diverse experiences of the situated body: there are chapters on drugs and addiction in Freud’s early work, on the figure of the slave in psychoanalysis, on some relations between ontology and love, on the narrative structure of Aesopian fables, on contemporary justifications for torture in allegedly democratic countries through their contravention not of free speech but of “free silence,” and on the medico-politico-technical uses of the figure of the swarm and swarming. What binds this diversity — if anything — is a psychoanalytic approach that is antiphilosophical, that is, engages in an ontological subversion that returns us to the problem of worlds…. To put it more bluntly, psychoanalysis, like the key political struggles that ultimately enabled the triumph of the revolutionaries in the English Civil Wars against the tyranny of the Stuarts, self-confessedly constitutes a sequence of failed-but-vital attempts at a ‘self-denying ordinance.’ Against this, we find the tyranny of various licensing procedures that market themselves as liberty. I am actually quite terrified by the current global tendency to prohibit all and any self-denying ordinances of any kind at every scale: what is this but yet another Return of the King, more spectacular and more repulsive than ever?

Keep reading here.


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