Graduate Student Colloquium Series: James Goebel and Chris Malcolm

The first colloquium of the winter quarter will be held Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 4pm in HG 1002. Below are the abstracts for the presentations.

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James R. Goebel, “Neoliberal Environmentalism: Value | Speed | Sacrifice”

This presentation is an excerpt from the first chapter of my dissertation, Sustainable Subjects: Capitalist Energetics and the Problem of Material Exhaustion. In this chapter, I document and analyze a complex set of debates that emerged around the development of utility-scale solar facilities on public lands in the southwest deserts following the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. While the chapter includes an analysis of the narrative constructions and rhetorical maneuvers of both proponents and opponents of these developmental projects, this presentation will focus on the former in order to understand how state and private interests have shaped the current discourse and politics of sustainability. I argue that the rhetorical appropriation of “sacrifice,” in the sense in which it has been used in twentieth and twenty-first century American environmental politics, produced a narrative closure which presented profound difficulties for the task of constructing a counter-narrative as the neoliberal project could now market itself as an environmental project. I conclude this presentation with a consideration of the sort of gendered and racialized subjective formations produced by this closure.

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Chris Malcolm, “Tar Sands and the Management of Dispossession”

How does development proceed? And what happens, in the imagination of development, to its casualties? If contemporary resource extraction, in both Canada and the United States, remains tied to a notion of “interest”—national, or profit—who is the beneficiary of this interest and who pays the cost? Such questions are acutely present in settler-colonial states whose histories of dispossession are inseparable from a history of those who are ongoing beneficiaries of that dispossession. This paper argues that the resistance to the manifestation of such a history, requires a certain theory and operation of management which appears so as to modulate, hold, or pacify that antagonism. What violence does the settler-colonial state do when its activity seems to be increasingly marked by consultation, negotiation, and reconciliation, on the one hand, and land-use and land-management on the other? In this paper I read environmental assessments and regulatory documents of the Alberta Tar Sands, to uncover a theory of management. One which regulates not only how land is seen as useable, and thereby exploitable, but also reveals how the violence of the state is manifest as managed. As a genre, environmental assessment demarcates where effects begin and end and polices the boundary of what counts as a claim. In so doing, it thereby proliferates temporal and spatial terminations that are the very basis of a colonial logic.

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