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When the Name for World is Soil

When the word for world is soil - Maria Puig de la Bellacasa Chair's Plenary Lecture - RGS-IBG Annual International Conference

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Date and location: Royal Geographical Society, London, from Thursday 29 August 2019, 1.10pm

When the word for world is soil. Engaging with the troubles of ecological belonging  

What words shall we invoke to write the troubled Earth? How can we nurture the imagination of caring earthly futures amidst a myriad of ongoing eco-social catastrophes? In her short novel The Word for World is Forest Le Guin tells the story of a peaceful community whose intimate belonging to the forest is threatened by the destructive power of the colonisers. In this tale, harmed forests and soils bear the mark of violence, but also of histories and futures of resistance. Commenting on Le Guin’s fictional worlds, and drawing on my research on contemporary human-soil relations, I approach Earth as soil to speculatively explore what thinking with soils can tell us about the possibilities of ecological belonging in troubled technoscientific worlds. Today’s rise in attention to soils unearths and entangles multi-layered significances – scientific, economic, cultural, aesthetic, affective and political. Engaging with the troubles of ecological belonging brought by any attempt to name “Earth as…” will have to start from acknowledging multiple non-assimilable and conflictive meanings. Imaginaries of human-soil belonging do not need to be reactionary prerogatives, they can also nurture insurgent and hopeful ecological futures.

Chaired by Professor Deborah Dixon (University of Glasgow, UK), who will also serve as discussant. Co-sponsored by Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers