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Activism by Disciplinary Experts vis-à-vis the Violence of the Anthropocene 
Eray Cayli (London School of Economics and Political Science)
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Andrew Barry (University College London)
Advocacy and Activism
Wednesday 16 September, 13:00-14:30

Short Abstract:

What are disciplinary expertise's possibilities/limitations for political ecological activism? How might it navigate expertise's historical role in creating methodologies and 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 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 methodologies and infrastructures or with heroic acts of their subversion. We reconsider this tendency by focusing on activism by disciplinary experts who self-reflexively attempt to grapple with the Anthropocene through infrastructures and methodologies old and new. We explore expertise's complicated relationship with such violent histories as colonialism and nation-state-making through which the effects of what has been termed the Anthropocene are differentiated. We 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. Materially and spatially focused ethnographies on such diverse fields as engineering, art, and archival/oral history consider how individuals, who identify as experts in each field, grapple with the violence of the Anthropocene and, in so doing, are informed by expertly methodologies and infrastructures. Following from the questions raised in the short abstract, we ask, 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 or methodologies and/or by devising new ones?

Accepted papers: