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The Evolution of Human Geography and the New Human Geographies of Evolution

Authors: Elvin Wyly*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Geographic Thought, Anthropocene, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Anthropocene, evolution, identity, communication
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The nineteenth-century academic division of labor between economics, history, geology, and geography was a struggle over the science and political theology of evolution. The struggle continues today with a new coalescence of capital, information, and socionature. The worst financial crisis in the history of capitalism hit just as Silicon Valley visionaries rediscovered an obscure concept developed in the 1920s by a Russian geochemist: the noösphere. Conceived as a hopeful prediction that planetary industrialization would foster humanity’s collective awareness of what we would today call the Anthropocene, the noösphere’s evolutionary implications have been refined from 1940s wartime cybernetics to today’s deepfake surveillance capitalism. Noöspheric technologies are integral to the infrastructures of production, consumption, and political-cultural superstructures of transnational, polycultural competition and capitalization. They accelerate the financialization of nature (via biopiracy, environmental derivatives, and genomics) while also driving the cybernetic evolution of human communicative performativity — yielding a combinatorial cognitive-capitalist Cambrian explosion of recombinant intersectional identities of race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, (trans)nationality, indigeneity, language, age, (dis)ability, faith, and class. Noöspheric human and posthuman geographies reveal the paradoxes of dialectic legitimation struggles between factions rejecting evolutionary science versus those working to guide its current trajectories. Whether they like it or not, in the noöspheric Anthropocene, diverse allies and adversaries are all co-evolving: technological transhumanist singulatarians, sovereign Indigenous decolonial scientists, geneticists in the ascendant Eastern ‘Wild West’ of embryo editing, Christian evangelical creationist climate-change denialists, and white-nationalist identitarians who understand all too well their imminent extinction in a survival-of-the-fittest ecosystem of planetary competition.

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