Nature and Its Others. The Invention of a Political Force

Lecture given by Didier Debaise at ici Berlin. Kulturlabor / Institute for Cultural Inquiry

The moderns have invented a ‘nature’ and made it one of their most important political institutions. This talk will revisit this very singular adventure through which a number of local inventions, gestures, and operations, namely within experimental systems, have given birth to a new political force. Disconnecting this nature from the very conditions of its emergence and existence, the moderns have instantiated it as an essential actor within processes of normalization of practices and as a crucial instrument justifying the extension of their impact on all other territories. Today the question then has become the following: How to resist the hegemonic tendencies of this modern version of nature in order to restore space and give back legitimacy to other ways of inhabiting the earth.

Didier Debaise is a permanent researcher at the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) and the director of the Center of Philosophy at Free University of Brussels (ULB) where he teaches contemporary philosophy. He is one of the co-founders, with Isabelle Stengers, of the Groupe d’études constructivistes (Geco). His main areas of research are contemporary forms of speculative philosophy, theories of events, and links between American pragmatism and French contemporary philosophy. He wrote three books on Whitehead’s philosophy (Un empirisme spéculatif, Le vocabulaire de Whitehead and L’appât des possibles), edited volumes on pragmatism (Vie et experimentation), on the history of contemporary metaphysics (Philosophie des possessions), and wrote numerous papers on Bergson, Tarde, Souriau, Simondon, and Deleuze. In 2017, two of his books appeared in English: Nature as Event: The Lure of the Possible and Speculative Empiricism: Revisiting Whitehead. He is currently working on a new book, Pragmatique de la terre.

ICI Lecture Series ERRANS environ/s

There is hardly a discipline, field, or discourse within the natural and social sciences nor the humanities that hasn’t long been touched and transformed by the notions of milieu, environment, or Umwelt. The recent revival and proliferation of ecological discourses can be understood, at least in part, as a response to the increasingly complete immersion in technologically in-formed environments. The transdisciplinary impact of these new concepts has not yet been captured, nor is it clear that it can be captured, but while the life sciences play a prominent role in them (having adopted, in the 19th century, concepts from physics and transgressed into the social sciences, for example, as racist discourses and social Darwinism), they don’t operate as the leading science in this transformation. Instead, this process appears to be a multidirectional, non-hierarchizable, and errant movement, itself constituting a complex ecology of knowledge.

ERRANS environ/s contemplates aspects of this frequently divergent, potentially errant, and certainly ongoing transformation of not only the sciences or cultures of knowledge, but also cultural and artistic production at large. It will investigate the ways in which an attention to environments can have the effect of dissolving boundaries or making them permeable, questioning clear-cut distinctions, undermining naive ontologies, decentring the subject, folding nature and culture, and producing complex political ecologies attuned to far-reaching entanglements.

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