[-empyre-] Introducing Week Four :: Capitalocene Times: from Entangled Plants-People to Cheap Food-Sick Consumers::

Jason W. Moore jasonwsmoore at gmail.com
Wed Oct 25 11:08:12 AEDT 2017

Dear Elaine!

What a wonderful set of questions. Let me try to give a short response to
just one of these great questions.

The question of temporality is of course central to our times. I think some
of the confusion over Anthropocene/Capitalocene turns on geological and
geohistorical time: both of which are multilayered with each other, and as
they interpenetrate each other. There are a vexing set of dimensions to
these historical-geographical relations, and disciplinary structures tend
to reinforce the problem.

In critical agrarian studies, the tension between the "production time" of
a specific primary product -- timber, wheat, cotton, etc. -- and the "labor
time" of the humans involved has been a recurrent question. Of course for
capitalism as a whole, there's a profound antagonism between the
reproduction time of capital and the reproduction time of other forms of
life, especially but not only that which capital prizes: labor-power. In
the history of sugar, we are dealing -- as ever -- with layers within
layers. It's easy to lapse into agronomic determinism with something like
sugar, whose ecology mandates some form of the "factory in the field":
sugarcane, once cut, dessicates quickly and must be processed with 48
hours. It's not the only crop with this kind time-sensitive dynamic at the
point of cultivation. But because the modern world's dynamics of race,
colonialism, and commodity agriculture find their epicenter in the
slave/sugar plantation, it's an expressive world-ecological weave of power,
and capital, and nature in a way that tells us much about how our world
came to be. Of course, in the modern world, neither the "time of nature"
nor the "time of capital" are static; they interpenetrate each other: if
capital's fantasy is to act as it pleases in disciplining and controlling
natures of every kind (humans included), that fantasy, that project, is
consistently upended, upset, and challenged by all manner of unruly
natures. With sugar, as with all plantation crops, there is always a
complex of resistances: weeds, rats, soils, and of course the humans who
work the fields. Some of these resistances have been more spectacular --
e.g. the Haitian Revolution -- than others. It's the question of power that
produces and is produced by the temporalities of "life" and "capital"
(which is but a heuristic and provisional simplification). Where a certain
world-historical sensibility is useful is in the ways that such resistances
have been "fixed" albeit temporarily: largely through great waves of
imperialism, geographical expansion, and the restructuring of
agro-ecological spaces on an increasingly planetary scale. But even here
there's no escape, as one notes the upsurge in resistances to neoliberal
agriculture in recent decades, underscored by the progressive stagnation of
agricultural productivity in the heartlands of capitalist agriculture over
the past three decades -- here is a possibly epochal failure of
capitalism's agricultural model, shaped by a logic of time and space that
pursues a utopian goal: the endless increase in the biological productivity
of life and the endless decrease in the human work necessary to achieve
such increases.

A few thoughts to close out the evening.

Warm regards to all, Jason

On Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 4:26 PM, Elaine Gan <eganuc at gmail.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Thanks so much, Margaretha, for bringing discussions together! It's been
> exciting to hear so many commitments, approaches to radical aesthetics and
> multispecies worldings. Very much looking forward to exploring
> "Capitalocene Times" with Joline and Jason, and hope many will feel free to
> chime in.
> Much of my own work in the past few years has focused on rice. To take
> "it" seriously involves recognizing that "it" is always and already
> multiple: grass, food crop, code, companion species, currency, hope,
> crisis, dump. It's a more-than-human relation that materializes through
> contingent encounters. To describe rice, I needed to really start thinking
> about temporalities --not only timescales of long and short,
> geos-bios-anthropos, speeds of fast and slow. But temporalities that are
> made in relation. Following postwar miracle rice, for example, involved
> thinking about differences in acceleration and reproduction cycles.
> Following deepwater rice in the Mekong involved thinking about synchrony
> and asynchrony. And the relationalities include vegetal, animal, fungal,
> chemical, etc. Lots of natureculture times.
> I wonder if I might throw a couple of questions into our hat:
> first, if I can interest Jason and Joline: how might you describe the
> temporalities of wild blueberries, and sugar or sugar cane plantations?
> What is the temporality of "cheap" and how does it interact with the
> temporality of "wild", "feral", or the lifemaking pulse of "oikeios"?
> and, a more open question: how might we map or visualize the Capitalocene
> (or Anthropocene, Plantationcene, Chthulucene, etc)  as it unfolds across
> speeds and scales? I'd love to hear what the empyre group is finding
> intriguing lately --or historically. For a few years, my friend Michelle
> Bastian <http://www.michellebastian.net/> and I have been in conversation
> about more-than-human social times. She is currently on leave but has
> kindly agreed to share this fun piece she wrote (attached) about imagining
> other possible futures through clocks. I also have been working with
> amazing collaborators, Sarah Lookofsky and Steve Lam. We co-curated an
> exhibition entitled "DUMP! Multispecies Making and Unmaking
> <http://elainegan.com/dump.html>" (2015) to engage an array of creative
> and critical practices that think across the nature-culture divide. And we
> are always negotiating what is the "work of art" and how/what/for whom it
> mobilizes worlds otherwise.
> Best,
> Elaine
> On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 8:36 PM, margaretha haughwout <
> margaretha.anne.haughwout at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Dear -empyre-,
>> One of the many themes of this week was the nature of our solidarity with
>> the more-than-human. How do we understand the nature of our relationships,
>> in revolution, in celebration, grief, and excess? Do we configure weeds as
>> guides, Immortal Strangers as revenge tutors (as Cassie and Max's
>> University of the Phoenix does), as re-enchanters who are and have always
>> been -- "us"?
>> At Johannes' prompting, we continued to extend our understandings of
>> cross-species media between and through; Ellie and Chris discuss conceptual
>> art strategies that create new framing devices, and new ways of knowing and
>> being with our weedy relatives. Adam urges us to consider that our
>> inter-species "knowing" is a facet of all of life, and argues that we all,
>> already know, because we are already not human, and more-than-human.
>> A heartfelt thank you to this week's discussants (and their microbiomes):
>> Ellie Irons & Christopher Kennedy of the Environmental Performance Agency,
>> Max Haiven & Cassie Thornton of The University of the Phoenix, and to Adam
>> Zaretsky.
>> These threads are alive! Not structured by abstracted moon cycles! Please
>> continue to post to them.
>> --
>> Speaking of re-enchantment, of enlivened relational environments, and
>> temporality.... Joline Blais, Elaine Gan, Jason W. Moore are Week Four's
>> discussants, under the title "Capitalocene Times: from Entangled
>> Plants-People to Cheap Food-Sick Consumers" -- and I for one (?) am totally
>> enchanted and enlivened by their presence here.
>> Interestingly, each of our discussants this week have done considerable
>> work on specific crops: Joline on blueberries -- the stories, and the
>> matrix of relationships blueberries enable in Northern Maine, Elaine on
>> rice varietals as technology and "time machine," Jason on the relationship
>> between sugar and early capitalism. So we can begin by asking whether
>> specific crop commodities such as sugar, rice, and blueberries teach us
>> alternate ways of mapping global (sugar), regional (rice), local
>> (blueberries) economies? And what kinds of temporalities and historical
>> materialisms are enacted or destroyed by the cultivation of particular
>> crops (in fact, can we reconcile historical materialism and speculative
>> futures?). We might also look broadly through these crops and others at how
>> processes of appropriation and exploitation function together to render
>> Jason's articulations of Cheap Natures.
>> There are so many threads we can pull in to this final weave. One is
>> where we began, a question of systems and entanglements. In Week One we
>> asked how systems inform a radical aesthetics of multispecies worlding, and
>> where and how entanglements challenge systems thinking. I'd also like to
>> connect this question to some of the conversations about interspecies
>> relationality that came up in Week Three, and (again) ask Jason to outline
>> his term oikeios; is this concept useful for us here, and can it help us
>> out of some of the binaries that are so easy to become ensnared in? If so,
>> what kind of oikeios do we want to create? How can the oikeios help us
>> understand how to form "revolutionary ecologies of work"?
>> With warmth and gratitude,
>> -M
>> --
>> Joline Blais
>> Joline Blais, Associate Professor of New Media at UMaine, is a mother,
>> educator, writer, permaculture practitioner, ecovillage founding partner,
>> competitive rower, avid hiker, and alpine ski coach.  She co-directs Still
>> Water, and co-founded LongGreenHouse, a “communiversity” project
>> integrating the Wassokeag K-8 school, UMaine classes, permaculture
>> practices, and Wabanaki Longhouse traditions. Her subsequent work at the
>> Belfast Ecovillage spanned 8 years and involved permaculture design, art
>> projects and workshops, land use governance, restorative justice
>> facilitation, dynamic governance, non-violent communication and transition
>> town training, and initial development of food forest orchards, as well as
>> design, construction and research of a net-zero, solar energy "passive
>> haus."
>> Her 2006 book At the Edge of Art investigates how new media art puts the
>> power of networks and distributed creativity into the hands of ordinary
>> citizens in a variety of non-art contexts. Her other publications and
>> creative work explore the overlap of digital culture, indigenous culture
>> and permaculture.  Currently she is working on Wild Difference, a project
>> to prevent the extinction of Wild Maine blueberries and the local culture
>> that support them via a lead grant for the development of a physical Wild
>> Blueberry Museum, and a pending NEH grant to develop the companion online
>> virtual museum. Her time in the forests, and on and in the water (liquid or
>> frozen) help maintain her own wild connection to her homeland.
>> Elaine Gan
>> Elaine Gan is Mellon Digital Humanities fellow at University of Southern
>> California and art director of Aarhus University Research on the
>> Anthropocene (AURA). Raised in the big old cities of Manila and New York,
>> Gan is an artist and interdisciplinary scholar who studies how human-plant
>> interactions situate geopolitical histories. Recent projects include
>> co-editing an anthology, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and
>> Monsters of the Anthropocene (Minnesota 2017) and co curating an artscience
>> exhibition, DUMP! Multispecies Making and Unmaking (Kunsthal Aarhus 2015).
>> http://elainegan.com
>> Jason W. Moore
>> Jason W. Moore is an environmental historian and historical geographer at
>> Binghamton University, where he is associate professor of sociology. He is
>> author or editor, most recently, of Capitalism in the Web of Life (Verso,
>> 2015), Capitalocene o Antropocene? (Ombre Corte, 2017), Anthropocene or
>> Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (PM Press,
>> 2016), and, with Raj Patel, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things
>> (University of California Press, 2017). His books and essays on
>> environmental history, capitalism, and social theory have been widely
>> recognized, including the Alice Hamilton Prize of the American Society for
>> Environmental History (2003), the Distinguished Scholarship Award of the
>> Section on the Political Economy of the World-System (American Sociological
>> Association, 2002 for articles, and 2015 for Web of Life), and the Byres
>> and Bernstein Prize in Agrarian Change (2011). He is chair (2017-18) of the
>> Political Economy of the World-System Section (ASA), and coordinates the
>> World-Ecology Research Network.
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Jason W. Moore, Associate Professor
Department of Sociology, Binghamton University
Recent books, *Capitalism in the Web of Life *
*Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of
Many of my essays are posted on my website:http://jasonwmoore.com
Recent short essays can be found here: http://jasonwmoore.wordpress.com/
For more on the world-ecology conversation, join us on academia.edu:
And also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/worldecology/
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