Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism
Elizabeth A. Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University and the author of, most recently, Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism, also published by Duke University Press.
The Three Figures of Geontology
Serving as an introduction to the entire book, chapter 1 discusses the appearance and spread of a late liberal mode of governing, which the book refers to as “geontological power” and “geontopower” as well as three figures—the Desert, the Animist, and the Virus—that are displacing the four figures of biopower. This chapter begins the exploration of geontopower by contrasting it with the broad influence of Michel Foucault’s concept of biopower. It then explores how the governance of life and death was always subtended by the governance of the distinction between Life (bios/zoe) and Nonlife (geos). This subtending geontopower is not new and was always apparent in settler colonies like Australia. The chapter asks, on the one hand, what is causing this subtending form of governance to appear, and, on the other hand, what new strategies, tactics, and discourses are emerging. The chapter then provides a broad outline of the rest of the book.