(Technical University of Dresden)

„Cyclonoplicity: Impurity Politics for the Anthropocene“

One of the central arguments frequently made within the field of complicity studies is that our thinking about complicity should not be restricted to an atomistic understanding focused on personal moral agency, but needs to be broadened to take into account the structural forms of complicity. We may think of this important shift of focus from the individual to the social and from the exceptional to the ordinary in terms of a theoretical shift from humanism to (post-)structuralism. In my contribution, I want to consider whether, in view of the material realities and the theoretical discourses surrounding the notion of the Anthropocene, yet another conceptual shift may be warranted today, one that extends the (post-)structuralist ‘decentering’ of the subject into a posthumanist one.

For this purpose, I intend to engage with a number of theoretical formations associated with the ‘nonhuman turn’, such as actor-network-theory, the new materialism, speculative realism, and postcritique, and to examine in which ways they suggest a reconfiguration of our understanding of the subject and of agency. As I will argue, such reconfiguration challenges us to complement our investigation of the individual and social dimensions of complicity with an attention to the level of ontology. I will conclude by making the case that living today inevitably means ‘compromised living’, that ethico-politically as well as ontologically, complicity and impurity unavoidably define our condition, and that consequently, this fact of being inescapably caught up in multiple ‘enfoldings’ has to be our starting point for action – a ‘politics of matter’ which ‘stays with the trouble’ and is hence not concerned with individual purity, authenticity, or non-complicity, but with the material, mundane, and collective work of building alternative attachments and assemblages – a posthuman solidarity aimed at multispecies wellbeing.

Relevant Publications

Cord, Florian. 2018. “Dirty, Messy Business: Stuart Hall, Politics and the Political.” Culture, Power and Identity: The Theoretical Legacy of Stuart Hall. Ed. Florian Cord and Gerold Sedlmayr. Special Issue of Coils of the Serpent: Journal for the Study of Contemporary Power 3: 27-42 <https://coilsoftheserpent.org/2018/12/dirty-messy-business/>.

―. 2021. “Towards an Insurgent Zombie Collective.” Alienocene: Journal of the First Outernational 9, pp. 1-43 <https://alienocene.com/2021/05/02/towards-aninsurgent-zombie-collective/>.