Robert Tally, Jr. reviews Cartographies over at the Marx & Philosophy Review of Books.
In memory of François Maspero, along with Feltrinelli the crucial publisher of the postwar European left, an excellent portrait from his friend Chris Marker. (The title is a paraphrase of the last moments of the film, where Maspero recalls the inspiration of Paul Nizan’s Les chiens de garde.)
Friday’s Guardian very rich and generously referenced piece on the troubled taproots of recent turns to the leitmotiv of landscape by Robert Macfarlane, a very useful accompaniment to a recent viewing of A Field in England:
Digging down to reveal the hidden content of the under-earth is another trope of the eerie: what is discovered is almost always a version of capital. Keiller’s Robinson tracks the buried cables and gas-pipes of Oxfordshire, following them as postmodern leylines, and tracing them outwards to hidden global structures of financial ownership. Wheatley’s deserters rapaciously extract “treasure” from the soil, by means of enslavement and male violence.
In the context of the widespread conviction that we now inhabit the Anthropocene, an epoch in which mankind has risen to the dubious stature of ‘geological agent’, some earth scientists have cut through the periodising controversy – Did the Anthropocene begin with the human discovery of fire? With the industrial revolution? – by dating the onset of man’s geological maturity with disconcerting precision: July 16, 1945, the first test-denotation of an atomic bomb. The (unconsciously) political character of periodization as an act of representation and totalization could not be more clearly illustrated. The ‘end of nature’ (as autonomous from human agency) here coincides with the ‘end of history’ (as the inability to articulate that agency as a common project of emancipation), and postmodernity receives a kind of geological imprimatur, by the same token losing its own temporal contours. ‘We’ make nature, but recognizing this we also confront our inability to make history, as natural processes inextricable from ‘our’ historical agency threaten to make and unmake the present and the future in the absence of our agency. This is the backdrop of ongoing attempts to represent in the medium of photographic landscape a world wholly made over by capital accumulation, not so much an Anthropocene as a Capitalocene, to use the term proposed by Jason W. Moore. Continue reading