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Mother Earth: Public Sphere, Biosphere, Colonial Sphere

Editors’ Note:

Is the narrow choice between consuming and not consuming all that is left in the relationship between humans and Mother Earth? Or are we forever fated to envision existence bound up in the desire to forsake Mother Earth, and has this deadly desire to flee placed humanity on the precipice of complete annihilation?

In this article, first published in e-flux Journal (June 2018), anthropologist Elizabeth A. Povinelli embarks upon a brilliant critique of how labor has defined human conditions, moving from ancient Greek’s understanding of labor as biological natality to maintain life, to Christian eschatology, pure science, and biopolitics, which incorporates all forms of human activity into the logic of biological inevitability.​ She ends by revealing the truth of civilizational claims of this gradually-shifting cosmos, which rationalizes its nibbling away at the Other’s world, absorbing all useful resources and creating its own colonial sphere by feeding off of and absorbing the Other. However, as the invaders exhaust the labor and life energy of the bodies and lands of the invaded, “their minds and institutions were formed by gulping the difference they encountered, the difference often got stuck in their throats. They choked.” This is the last moment in which colonialism can be uprooted.

This is part of e-flux in Chinese Column, a collaboration between Heichi Magazine and e-flux journal, with curator and writer Xiaoyu Weng as the column’s guest-editor.

Mother Earth: Public Sphere, Biosphere, Colonial Sphere from e-flux journal #92—June 2018, read the original article here. Click here to read the essay in Chinese. ​Translated by Ziyin Su, co-edited by Xiaoyu Weng and Yuan Fuca.

Ziying Su graduated from Beijing Normal University in 2015, majored in Philosophy (bachelor). Now working as a freelance translator. Book translation: Philosophy, Arts, History: Theoretical Writing of Critical Thinking (co-translator); Social Media Abyss; Recursively and Contingency (forthcoming); The Question Concerning Technology in China (co-translator, forthcoming). Experimenting with writing, thing-making, and self-analyses.

Figure from Michael Maier’s book Atalanta Fugiens (1617-1618).

A woman works on a ‟Vengeance” dive bomber at Vultee-Nashville, Tennessee, c. 1939. Photo: Alfred T. Palmer

Gaia (New Earth), the DC Comics superhero character, in Aquaman, vol. 5, no. 6 (February 1995).

Published: 2020.10.09