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Political Geology: An Introduction

Abstract

This chapter introduces the emerging concept of political geology in the context both of the recent literature in geography and anthropology, and the historical studies of science that have in part inspired this collection. We trace the history of science and its encounters with the earth, with a focus on the political dimensions of these encounters. We explain the different sections of the book – political geologies of knowledge, a modern political geologies and political geologies of the future – with reference to the studies to which they seek to contribute. Political geology has perhaps emerged from the recent interest in the Anthropocene, but it is much more than that: it seeks to understand how Western geological science in particular has been implicated in and by politics, and how non-Western knowledges of the earth might infiltrate and shift this discussion. In doing so, we move through historical, epistemological and philosophical frameworks that influence the authors in the volume. Ultimately, we demonstrate how geological knowledge-making, representation and thought have inscribed and are inscribed by political activities.

Keywords

  • Political Geology
  • Geological Knowledge
  • fieldField
  • Tazieff
  • Martin Rudwick

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Author order is alphabetical—both authors contributed equally.

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Fig. 1.1
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Fig. 1.4

Notes

  1. 1.

    There is also much work showing the deep connections between nineteenth century geographical thinkers and the influence of mining engineering and techniques of conceptualising resources. This is to say that the epistemology of the geos as a superficial entity was often in a complex dialogue with other ways of framing it. Consider for example the influence of Humbolt’s mining work on his own vertical conception of territory and habitat (Anthony 2018). See also Guntau (1996) “The Natural History of the Earth”.

  2. 2.

    For example, Martin Rudwick (1985), James Secord (1990), and Stephen Jay Gould (1990) are among many other scholars working in the history of geology and earth sciences that have been read lately by social scientists and humanists.

  3. 3.

    Natural scientists of the eighteenth century did not recognize this distinction though they worked with today’s geological material. See: Martin Rudwick, ‘Minerals, strata and fossils’ (Rudwick 1996: 266).

  4. 4.

    As Martin Rudwick has shown, this transition did not take place in a simple way that replaced one story with the next; Western geological narratives were made by scientists, priests and learned men of the clergy in ways that did not contradict religious doctrine; see Rudwick (2005, 2009) for a full account of “the differentiation of properly distinct spheres of enduring meaning, both scientific and religious”. See also Gould (1987) on the relationship between science and religion in geology .

  5. 5.

    For the original see Godard, Jean-Luc (1959: 53–55) “Le conquérant solitaire”. Cahiers du cinéma, March.

  6. 6.

    M. Mattauer, in a circular sent to representatives of the Institut. He was subsequently sued by Tazieff for defamation—for details, see the timeline http://www.ipgp.fr/~beaudu/soufriere/forum76.html (in French).

  7. 7.

    In “The Curse of Tolerance,” Cosmopolitics II, Stengers (2011: 303–323) states that tolerance is a way that secular moderns treat those ‘others’ who still have beliefs as compared to the ‘truths’ of our disenchanted world. “Tolerant is he, or she, who measures how painfully we pay for the loss of the illusions, the certitutdes, we attribute to those who we think ‘believe.’ Therefore, happy are those whose confidence has remained intact. They dwell where we, moderns, cannot return to other than as caricatures, sects, and despots” (303). Ontological anthropology is precisely a project of taking those “believers” seriously in order to unsettle our own modernist conviction of living in a secular, post-metaphysical world.

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Bobbette, A., Donovan, A. (2019). Political Geology: An Introduction. In: Bobbette, A., Donovan, A. (eds) Political Geology. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-98189-5_1

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