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McKenzie Wark on "A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None"


At the Verso blog, McKenzie Wark delves into an intriguing book published recently by University of Minnesota Press: A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None by geographer Kathryn Yusoff. Describing the book as “the Anthropocene meets critical race studies,” Wark examines how Yusoff teases out connections between the science of geology and the establishment of a concept of the “human” that excludes Black bodies. Here’s an excerpt:

Yusoff follows Sylvia Wynter on the ways in which a scientific humanism worked as a means of dispossession and extends it to a novel examination of the role of geology: “the geophysics of being has been neglected in accounts of colonial violence.” She unearths the politics of geology as a regime of knowledge. What is usually treated as political is infrastructure that results from applied geological knowledge: mines, pipelines, water rights, land grabs. For example, Anna Tsing’s account of gold prospecting in Indonesia. Yusoff is interested in the racial dimension of geology itself.

The objective is not to include the formerly excluded racial other in the geological imagination of the Anthropocene. “To be included in the ‘we’ of the Anthropocene is to be silenced by a claim to universalism that fails to notice its subjugations.” Rather, it’s a question of the philosophical and material foundation of geology itself. “It might be easier to contend that race is not a ‘problem’ of geology but a problem of humanism and its exclusions; blame the master, not the tools. But geology is more than a tool; it is a technology of matter…”