Distinktion: Journal of Social
The invention of new forms of geo-social knowledge has become one of the imperatives to resist the so-called Anthropocene. Critical theorists have called for enhanced interdisciplinary collaborations between the earth sciences and the social sciences and humanities to disrupt conventional nature/culture divisions and imagine more sustainable futures. The condition for such geo-social encounters, the argument goes, is the politicization of the geosciences, or the correction of their abstracted modes of knowing.
Inspired by feminist science studies and geophilosophies, in this article I follow geophysicists to find in their encounters with lithic things alternative modes of knowledge production. By tracking ethnographically their scientific practices, I try to render visible the pragmatics of the abstractions through which they attempt at apprehending inhuman elements and processes. Particularly, I identify two geophysical operations. First, what I call the geo-affective operation of geophysics, or its constitution on a sensual and embodied ecology that does not suspend the abyssal difference between ‘us’ and the radical alterity of geological things, but is rather the consequence of an open being-with inorganic matter. Second, I engage with geo-poetics as a genre of scientific narration that integrates geological entities into scientific accounts, while at the same time preserving their impossible distance with the human. Both operations, I argue, gesture towards a mode of geo-social knowledge in which geophysical abstraction-making, against the call of critical theorists, is empowered to avoid anthropocentric absorptions and symbioses – and hence towards the reformulation of what politicization means in catastrophic times.