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A Polycritical Theory: Escaping categories of injustice (there is no escape)

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Organizer: Ted Geier

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Academia microsilages identitarian dominations. Economic or cultural, environmental or socioeconomic critique. But the field refuses such divisive abbreviations, articulating racial capitalist studies, environmental justice, etc. And yet, what is upon us is a dense, total intersectionality of critique. The "polycrisis" of intersecting disasters and suffering might motivate hopeless resignation. In economic practice, it activates strategic betting on disaster. Naomi Klein wrote about "Disaster Capitalism," a term absent in Scott Patterson’s recent Chaos Kings: How Wall Street Traders Make Billions in the New Age of Crisis. Worst-case humanitarian, ecological, and financial crises are already theorized and capitalized upon. The Maui fires prompt verbatim citation of “disaster capitalism” by local organizers on CNN. Take one’s pick of global ecological-colonial-capitalist-anthropocentric terrors (see how it goes to be precise enough for the contemporary critical hyperactivity exceeding and subverting identity, locality, historicity)… no articulation is proper enough besides totality, all over again.

This critical estrangement ensures that all are dominated, endangered, abandoned by disaster, producing a standard critical theory target: diagnosing the system of suffering in order to amend this shared world. As Claire Jean Kim suggests in Dangerous Crossings: Race, Species, and Nature in a Multicultural Age, the point of critique—“The answer to neoliberalism’s destructive practices and values”—should not be “to marginally broaden the category of beneficiaries of this destructiveness but rather, through a critical and transformational politics, to radically restructure our relationships with each other, animals, and the earth outside of domination.” (21) A truer flattening of consubstantial suffering, a homogenizing embrace of all, could be the only hope to combat the polycritical disaster at its true scale, in its true form.

This seminar would grapple with polycrisis and tensions in resisting the subjugation of theoretical and historical specificities that must, for survival, refuse Anglophonic, U.S., Eurocentric, White, patriarchal, settler-colonial, and other dominations. Does the vastness and diffusion of crises refuse old ‘solidarity’ and ‘justice’ fantasies, as each subsequent generation leaves only pyrrhic, local, small ‘victories’ in their wake while the world burns and billionaires flee to their compounds and interplanetary escapes? What is the material analysis that matters properly, if it is necessarily the case that the ecological disaster (invoked by financial and cultural theory alike) subtends all others? Or if the extinctive expresses an interspecies polycritical theory despite an obvious variance of suffering and domination across specific cultural historical contexts? What critique of domination is permitted at a total ‘scale’ that could even fantasize about amending a very real, very now polycrisis?

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