The Four Axioms of Existence

This talk is part of the Department of Rhetoric’s Fall Colloquium.

It’s hot and it’s getting hotter. As the machinery of capital extraction, industrialism, and consumption refuses to relinquish its grip, temperatures continue to rise and chemical hot zones to spread. Tipping points threaten to alter the nature of what the ecologists of the 70s came to describe as the whole earth, gaia, the biosphere. But until that happens, and even after, the shifts are not and will never be uniform. In reality, hot zones form like rain clouds over specific vicinities. And clouds are part of a global circulation of forms of toxicity. In the broad shadow of these toxic formations four broad axioms of existence now characterize an increasingly large segment of critical theory: the extimacy of existence; the distribution of the effects of power and the power to affect a given terrain of existence; the multiplicity and collapse of forms of the event; and the collapse of western disciplines of embodied distinctions and hierarchies, or, what I have called the collapse of western geontopower. This talk explores the political demands these axioms make and the rhetorical dodges taken to avoid their radical implications.

Cori Hayden, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley, will be the discussant for this talk.

On October 26, as part of the Rhetoric Fall Colloquim, Professor Povinelli will present a screening of the Karrabing Film Collective’s The Mermaids, or Aiden through Wonderland. Please see here for details.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University. Her books include Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (2016), Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (2011), and The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism (2002). She is also a founding member of the Karrabing Film Collective.

Sponsored by the Department of Rhetoric. Co-sponsored by the Department of Geography, the Department of Anthropology, the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, and the Program in Critical Theory.