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CO.LABORATIONS | Partnerships in Media and Culture


16 April 2019
15:30 - 17:00
Drift 21, Sweelinckzaal (0.05), Utrecht

Arun Saldanha: “Phenotypical Globalization”

Descartes Centre History of Science Colloquium Tuesday 16 April 2019

Speaker: Arun Saldanha (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry at Utrecht University)

Title: “Phenotypical Globalization: Race, the Anthropocene, and Radical Interdisciplinarity”

Date: Tuesday 16 April 2019

Time: 15:30 – 17:00 h

Venue: Drift 21, Sweelinckzaal (0.05), Utrecht



Encouraged by some references to Marxism in The Human Planet, a short mass-market book published last year by two physical geographers, Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin, this workshop will start by explaining why a critical conversation between geology and critical theory is likely to be defining of the twenty-first century. In claiming that the cumulative and accelerating destruction by consumer capitalism of species, climate stability, and social formations will be legible forever in Earth’s crust, and in finding objective reasons to doubt the viability of the human species in the coming centuries, the Anthropocene might be the most consequential concept ever invented. Of course, anthropos is not a totality over and against “nature” but itself an ecology fissured in essence by vectors we call sex, class, race, religion, and nation. In particular, over the last few decades there has been confusion about the category of race, a category once central to all the social sciences. If race is a social construction, why is there still clearly racism in the way populations are affected by the Anthropocene? Can physical differences between human bodies be conceptualized without boxing them into the old colonial categories? In this workshop I will outline a new way of thinking race at the planetary level.


Optional watching / reading:

The Smithsonian, “What is the Anthropocene?”

(nota bene! Modern humans evolved some 200,000 years ago, which is only 0.00004% of Earth’s history, not 0.01%)

Françoise Vergès, “The racial Capitalocene”

Arun Saldanha, “The reality of race”


About the speaker

Arun Saldanha is Associate Professor of the Department of Geography, Environment, and Society at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. See also: https://cla.umn.edu/about/directory/profile/saldanha

Arun is NWO-funded Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry at Utrecht University where he is working on a theoretical book blending geohumanities, Marxism, and evolutionary theory to rethink race as planetary process, tentatively titled Phenotypically: A New Old Materialist Theory of Race. On the public-engagement front, while Arts, Design, and Humanities Chair of the Imagine Fund at Minnesota over 2016-18, Arun organized a large symposium called “Prince from Minneapolis” and is preparing an edited collection on how a black superstar could emerge from a relatively white city.