Locating a responsible state in a politics in transition

Authors: Frances Butler*,
Topics: Anthropocene, Political Geography, United States
Keywords: material politics, climate change, state, responsibility
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


What is the political responsibility of the state in the Anthropocene? Materials, technologies, people, beliefs and the environment are spatially, temporally and variously present, appearing, retreating, disappearing and mourned. These matters may include oil and gas plants and pipelines, the subsidies and infrastructure that support them, carbon emission measurements, Fox News broadcasts, land becoming sea, flooded homes, community meetings and shrimp. These are some of the forces and agencies that shift and transform relative to each other, asserting and losing authority, achieving or failing to achieve salience in a network that, through contestation, makes politics (Barry 2013). It is through everyday prosaic interactions and practices with such agencies (Painter 2006), that the state establishes its existence and scope of its responsibility (Mitchell 1991). In this paper I address the political responsibility of the local state in the Anthropocene through an empirical focus on the state of Louisiana. Arguably subjected to environmental ‘slow violence’ (Nixon 2011), representing an assemblage of colonialism and extraction (Ray 2017), Louisiana is a place where many people typically reject the ‘helping hand’ of the state (Hochschild 2016) and yet it is also the first place in the United States to experience climate refugees and a new agency has been created to provide federal support. What can a place in transition tell us about the political responsibilities of the state?

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