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 Normativity of Creeks
There is a coastal tidal creek in Northern Australia in which the form of a young girl lies face down. She came to this creek as a beautiful teenager (a tjipel in the language of the area) who decided to dress as a young man, equipping herself with male clothes and hunting implements, including a spear and spear thrower. After a series of incidents the young woman became a creek. Chapter 4 puts this young woman’s ongoing existence in conversation with the desires of two other women: Linda Yarrowin, a contemporary middle-aged Indigenous woman, and Julia Gillard, the former Labor prime minister of Australia. It does to examine how critical theories of (anti)normativity, plasticity, and vibrancy make, or not, a space for the difference of Nonlife existents in liberal geontopower. It begins with Georges Canguilhem’s critique of the mid-twentieth-century definition within biomedical sciences and normal and pathological states of life, then shifts to contrast between Canguilhem’s philosophy of normative life, Catherine Malabou’s concept of plasticity, and Jane Bennett’s theory of vibrant matter. Rather than choosing between critical theories of normativity, plasticity and vibrancy, the chapter locates them as symptomatic of geontopower in the context of extractive capitalism.