Erik Swyngedouw

Interrupting the Anthropo-Obscene: The De-politicized Politics of the Anthropocene as Immuno-biopolitical Fantasy

Erik Swyngedouw, SEED, University of Manchester, UK.

Monday.  10.Apr.2017.

3:00-5:00pm.  SS5017.

100 St. George Street

Tea. Coffee. Cookies.

ABSTRACT: The staging of the Anthropocene inserts humans as active agents into what hitherto was largely understood as the de-humanized acting force of non-human dynamics. This opens up all manner of new possibilities, ranging from calls for a more modest and ‘adaptive’ human-nonhuman articulation to advocating geo-engineering and geo-management perspectives to manicure the dynamics of the earth system. While recognizing a wide-ranging debate, we hold that ‘the Anthropocene’ is a deeply depoliticizing notion that off-stages political possibilities. This off-staging unfolds, we contend, through the creation of what we refer to as ‘AnthropoScenes’, the mise-en-scene of a particular set of narratives that are by no means homogeneous, but which all broadly share the effect of off-staging certain voices and forms of acting. Our notion of the Anthropo-obScene then, is our tactic to both attest to and undermine the performativity of the depoliticizing stories of ‘the Anthropocene’; a hacking of a popularized term to render sensible its uncanny underbelly.

The presentation is organized in four parts. We depart from ‘the event of the Anthropocene’ as Bonneuil and Fressoz call it. The Anthropocene argument not only fully recognizes the active role of humans in co-constructing the earth’s deep geo-historical time, but also potentially inaugurates a new ontological framing of relational symmetry between humans and non-humans. In the second part, I interrogate how versions of such symmetrical relational ontologies fuel a new cosmology, a new ordering of socio-natural relations. Despite its radical presumptions, I contend that this new cosmology opens the specter (albeit by no means necessarily or intentionally so), for a deepening of particular capitalist forms of human-nonhuman entanglements. In the third part, I suggest how this framing of the Anthropocene provides for an apparently immunological prophylactic against the threat of an irredeemably external and revengeful nature. The displacement of an external nature that struck back, because not properly attended to, to the reflexive and symmetrical Anthropocenic cosmology offers a symbolization of humans’ apparent desire to protect itself, to immunize itself from the vagaries of nature’s acting without excess. Roberto Esposito analysis of immunological bio-political governmentality, enhanced by Fréderic Neyrat’s psychoanalytical interpretation, may help to elucidate this de-politicizing deadlock.

In the final section, we to explore the contours of re-politicizing the socio-environmental conundrum we are in, while fully and radically embracing humans’ interdependence with non-humans. Drawing on post-foundational political thought, this perspective recognizes exteriority and separation as the condition of possibility for interdependence and relationality.


Intersections: Lectures, etc. Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Political Ecology Cluster, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Co-sponsored with

School of Environment, University of Toronto

Alison Mountz

The Geopolitics of Asylum

Alison Mountz, Balsillie School of International Affairs + Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfred Laurier University


Friday.  24.Mar.2017. 3:00-5:00pm.

SS2125. 100 St. George Street

Tea. Coffee. Cookies.

ABSTRACT: The geopolitics of asylum operate as a form of the global intimate. This paper calls for greater attention to geopolitics in analyses of political asylum outcomes and lived experiences. While migration scholars have long asserted that borders are more open for some people than for others, less has been written about the role played by geopolitics in shaping human migration in the form of asylum. How do geopolitical relations influence the permeability of borders and chances for human mobility of those seeking asylum? Why do some asylum-seekers cross borders with relative ease, while others in proximate time and place encounter a proliferation of forms of confinement (such as walls, fencing, and detention centers)? Borders are sites where geopolitical order and racialized exclusions are established and consolidated through spatial controls exercised over mobility. This talk juxtaposes different migrations that are proximate in time and space to illuminate the influence of race and geopolitics on legal geographies, technocratic-seeming processes and procedures, and – ultimately – their outcomes.

Intersections: Lectures, etc. Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto


Development Seminar Series, Faculty of Arts and Science, University of Toronto


Elizabeth Delmelle

Differentiating pathways of neighborhood change in 50 U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Transportation Cluster’s Invited Speaker:

Elizabeth Delmelle, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina – Charlotte

Friday.  10.Mar.2017. 3:00-5:00pm.

SS2125. 100 St. George Street

Tea. Coffee. Cookies.

ABSTRACT: Empirical studies on the pathways of neighborhood change are making great strides with advancements in methodologies and the availability of longitudinal datasets. This body of work holds the potential to test longstanding theories on how the neighborhood change process has unfolded and it offers a new opportunity for developing theories that better represent neighborhood dynamics in the current landscape of rapid suburbanization, back to the city movements, and deindustrialization. I contribute to this line of research by differentiating the longitudinal pathways of change across multiple attribute dimensions for neighborhoods in 50 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), covering a 30 year time span. The distribution of neighborhood trajectories is then examined both within and between MSAs. The trajectory grouping method identifies 34 dominant sequences of change throughout the country featuring two distinct pathways of change: a white-flight type process aligning with life-cycle theories of change predominant in neighborhoods consisting of single family housing, and an alternate path driven by an influx of new, largely foreign born residents where multi-family housing is present. Cities are grouped into classes based on the similarity of their neighborhood composition and the spatial arrangement of neighborhood types is analyzed using a spatial clustering procedure to determine which types of neighborhoods are most concentrated, which are likely to co-exist in space and which are likely to be dispersed from one another.

BIO: Elizabeth Delmelle is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Earth Science at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, and the Chair of the Transportation Geography Specialty Group of the AAG. Dr. Delmelle’s research interests lie within two general fields of application: urban and neighborhood dynamics and urban transportation. Her work on neighborhood dynamics has sought to understand how and why neighborhoods change according to their multidimensional quality of life or socioeconomic complexion. This research has employed a variety of statistical and computational techniques to understand space-time patterns of change. On the transportation side, Dr. Delmelle has worked in the area of bicycle and pedestrian safety, performing spatial analyses of bicycle crash locations and comparing neighborhood-level risk factors between bicyclists and pedestrians. Finally, she is interested in spatial accessibility and spatial equity as it relates to public transport.


Intersections: Lectures, etc. Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto