Landscapes of Terminal Capitalism, Aporias of Responsibility -Myra J. Hird


Landscapes of Terminal Capitalism, Aporias of Responsibility: Lifeworlds Inherited, Inhabited and Bequeathed:
The ‘Anthropocene’ captures an emerging recognition, and interest in, the specificity of human geo-social formations; that is, the simultaneous operation of human-created infrastructures and global politico-economic practices characteristic of industrial capitalism, and geological processes stretching back through deep time. Whether in the form of mining, nuclear, industrial, hazardous, sewage or municipal, and whether it is dumped, landfilled, incinerated or buried deep underground, waste constitutes perhaps the most abundant and enduring ‘trace’ of the human for epochs to come. But we are not so much leaving behind our waste for some imagined future humanity to decipher our history, as we are bequeathing a particular futurity through a projected responsibility. My research considers waste as a form of what I call terminal capitalism; a state whereby our only solution for dealing with the toxicity our relentless consumption and planetary depletion generates is by producing permanently temporary waste deposits for imagined futures to resolve. Through a compendium of field notes, participant observation, interviews, and archival research, this address examines three Canadian waste landscapes from what might be called an inhuman feminist perspective that invite questions about what is and is not meant to be seen, uncovered, dealt with, admired, entrusted, and forgotten. This address reflects upon what it means to be interested in and curious about our waste legacy: how to prepare for, represent, and participate in waste landscapes, attending as much to geo-biological processes as human political-economic practices.

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