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Activist-Expertise vis-à-vis the Violence of the Anthropocene: Infrastructure and the Expert's Subjectivity at the Intersection of Violent Histories and Catastrophic Futures
Eray Cayli (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Professor Andrew Barry (UCL Department of Geography)
Advocacy and Activism
Wednesday 16 September, 13:00-14:30

Short abstract:

What are the political possibilities and limitations of eco-activism by scientific/disciplinary experts? How might it navigate expertise's historical role in creating the infrastructures that have facilitated the sociopolitically and geographically uneven effects constituting the Anthropocene?

Long abstract:

Recent analyses of the intersection between violence and climate change have decisively re-politicized the figure of the scientific/disciplinary expert. But the tendency in so doing has been to reduce the mutual impact between violence and the expert's subjectivity to clear-cut notions of guilt and innocence, associating expertise either with the design and operation of violent infrastructures or with heroic acts of their subversion. The panel reconsiders this tendency by focusing on activism by scientific/disciplinary experts who self-reflexively attempt to grapple with the Anthropocene through infrastructures old and new. Panellists will explore expertise's complicated relationship with the violent histories through which the effects of what has been termed the Anthropocene are differentiated. They will therefore attend both to the physical violence involved in this differentiation and to the epistemological violence characterizing the term's tendency towards socio-political and geographical totalization. Especially welcome are materially and spatially focused ethnographies discussing how experts' attempts to grapple with the violence of the Anthropocene shape and are shaped by specific infrastructures premised on expertise. Alongside the questions raised in the short abstract, the panel asks, what new infrastructures might activist-experts conceive and develop in hopes of countering the Anthropocene's uneven effects? How might the racialized, gendered and class-based violence underpinning the Anthropocene both as historical, embodied experience and as a burgeoning body of knowledge inform the expert's subjectivity as activist-experts navigate the contemporary intersection of violent histories and catastrophic futures by breaking, sabotaging, repairing, repurposing existing infrastructures and/or by designing and building new ones?