Facing the Planetary: Entangled Humanism and the Politics of Swarming
William E. Connolly is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor at Johns Hopkins University where he teaches political theory. He is a former editor of Political Theory and one of the cofounders of Theory & Event. His recent books include The Fragility of Things; A World of Becoming; Capitalism and Christianity, American Style; and Pluralism, all also published by Duke University Press.
Postcolonial Ecologies, Extinction Events, and Entangled Humanism
This chapter examines the contributions of postcolonial ecologists such as Rob Nixon, Anna Tsing, and Dipesh Chakrabarty. Those ecologists are invited to absorb the findings of earth scientists such as Michael Benton and Clive Finlayson, who examine the sources of two extinction events: the near end of life itself 250 million years ago and the extinction of the Neanderthal 280,000 years ago. These explorations extend our grasp of the bumpiness of planetary processes such as climate, methane bursts, and volcanoes, and they underline how important it is for humanists to engage the earth sciences. Entangled humanism is one of the gathering places where the findings of this study can be assembled. When multiple modes of entanglement with other human cultures, living beings, and nonliving processes are emphasized, we may be in a better position to offer a new reading of passive nihilism appropriate to this time. Passive nihilists of today admit planet warming, but residues from received doctrines of humanism and sociocentrism persist on the visceral register of culture in ways that may recall discussion of scars from the past in chapter 3. The task is to deploy role experiments and other strategies to transfigure those residues and to prepare for participation in the politics of swarming.