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Tijdschrift voor Economische Sociale en Geografie: Elvin Wyly -- The Evolution of Human Geography and the New Human Geographies of Evolution

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: , Wiley, Tijdschrift voor Economische Sociale en Geografie
Organizers: Manuel Aalbers
Chairs: Manuel Aalbers


Lecture sponsored by Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie (TESG)

Speaker: Elvin Wyly, The University of British Columbia
Discussants: Shenjing He & Cesare Di Feliciantonio

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

The nineteenth-century formalization of the academic division of labor between economics, history, geology, and geography was a struggle over the science, theology, and politics of evolution. The struggle continues in this century, with a new coalescence of capital, information, and socionature. Just as the worst financial crisis in the history of capitalism shook the architecture of planetary political economy, Silicon Valley visionaries were rediscovering and engineering an obscure but powerful concept developed in the 1920s by a Russian geochemist: the noösphere. Initially 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 amidst advancing information and communications technologies from 1940s wartime cybernetics to twenty-first-century deepfake surveillance capitalism. Today, 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 communication and community performativity — yielding a combinatorial cognitive-capitalist Cambrian explosion of political alliances and 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 seeking to control its modes of knowledge production and/or its current trajectories. Whether they like it or not, in this turbulent new era of 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.


Type Details Minutes
Introduction Manuel Aalbers KU Leuven 5
Panelist Elvin Wyly University of British Columbia 50
Discussant Shenjing He The University of Hong Kong 10
Discussant Cesare Di Feliciantonio Manchester Metropolitan University 10

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