Geologic life : prehistory, climate, futures in the Anthropocene

Yusoff, Kathryn (2013) Geologic life : prehistory, climate, futures in the Anthropocene. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31 (5). pp. 779-795. ISSN 0263-7758

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The diagnostic of the Anthropocene proposes a new geological epoch that designates humans as beings capable of geomorphic force, shaping Earth systems on a par with inhuman forces. This social geology marks an ascendance to inhuman planetary power fuelled by fossil fuels from the Carboniferous. Yet nowhere are the geophysical, genomic, and social narratives of this geologic subjectification considered together to interrogate these geologic capacities, not just in terms of impacts on the Earth, but as forces that subjects share—geologic forces that compose and differentiate corporeal and collective biopolitical formations. I argue in this paper that the concept of the Anthropocene is axiomatic of new understandings of time, matter, and agency for the human as a collective being and as a subject capable of geomorphic acts; a being that not just affects geology, but is an intemperate force within it. This immersion of humanity into geologic time suggests both a remineralisation of the origins of the human and a shift in the human timescale from biological life course to that of epoch and species–life. The paper is structured as a modest conversation between two fossilised subjects that define the imagined origin and ending of the narrative arc of the Anthropocene—one from the prehistory of human origins, the other from the future of the Anthropocene—in a conversation about time, geology, and inhuman becomings. Examining fossils as material and discursive knots in the narrative arc of human becoming, I argue for a ‘geological turn’ that takes seriously not just our biological (or biopolitical) life, but also our geological (or geopolitical) life and its forms of differentiation. Fossils unlock this life–death, time–untimely, corporeal–incorporeal equation, suggesting the need for a theory of the geologic and a reckoning with the forces of mute matter in lively bodies: a corporeality that is driven by inhuman forces. This paper investigates what I am calling “geologic life”—a mineralogical dimension of human composition that remains currently undertheorised in social thought and is directly relevant for the material, temporal, and corporeal conceptualisation of fossil fuels. This geologic life prompts a need to rethink the coherency of the human as a territorialising force of the Earth in its prehistoric, contemporary, and future-orientated incarnation. As such, this paper proposes a speculative theoretical framework for thinking modes of geologic life within the Anthropocene.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Additional Information:
Yusoff, Kathryn, 2013 The definitive, peer-reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31, 5, 779-795, 2013, 10.1068/d11512
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? geo-politicsgeological time human originsfeminist theorygeophilosophyclimate change futureselizabeth groszanthropoceneinhumanenvironmental scienceenvironmental science (miscellaneous)geography, planning and developmentge environmental sciences ??
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18 Jun 2015 04:50
Last Modified:
23 Mar 2024 00:37