Conflicts of Planetary Proportion – A Conversation

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Bruno Latour Emeritus Professor, médialab, Sciences Po Paris France

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Dipesh Chakrabarty Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago IL US

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The introduction of the long-term history of the Earth into the preoccupations of historians has triggered a crisis because it has become impossible to keep the “planet” as one single entity outside of history properly understood. As soon as the planetary intruded into history, it became impossible to keep it as one naturalized background. By problematizing the planetary, Dipesh Chakrabarty has forced philosophers, historians and anthropologists to extend pluralism to the very ground on which history was supposed to unfold. Hence Bruno Latour’s attempt at counting the number of “planets” whose attractions are simultaneously being felt today on any political question. Each of his eight planets are defined by the disconnect between where they are situated and where they are imagined to be moving, which means that each planet is led by a different and incommensurable philosophy of history. Such a “fictional planetology” is then discussed by Chakrabarty, who reviews the difficulties historians have had in taking the nonhuman (and hence the planet) as a historical agent and then adds to Latour’s count a new planetary body which further complicates the geopolitical situation. The result of their joint effort is to shift questions of philosophy of history to philosophy of geography.

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