The Anthropocene as kairos : the rhetorical invention of ecological consensus
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The Anthropocene is a geological and temporal designation that represents the end of an 11,000 yearlong geological time period and marks the beginning of a new epoch characterized by humans' deleterious relationship with the earth. Although scientists are still contemplating the Anthropocene's official designation, environmental activists are increasingly appropriating the designation in ways that complicate and challenge existing environmental discourses related to nature, technology, and politics. The Anthropocene, as a rhetorical invention, works to temporalize space and give agency to the collective self-organizing processes and kairologics that make imagining human and ecological universals necessary. In other words, the Anthropocene invokes a temporal meta-consensus that constitutes new universalisms. I analyze eight manifestos that take up the Anthropocene's implications. My analysis details how these contemporary environmental manifestos negotiate the discursive hegemony of the Anthropocene's universal postulates. I detail three universalisms entangled in the Anthropocene's rhetorical invention: First, the Anthropocene constitutes a transnational and collective human subjectivity. Second, the Anthropocene posits an all-encompassing and linear progression of time. And third, the Anthropocene presumes a totalizing earthly geometry and omnipresent ecology. In contrast, the manifesto as a genre works as a constitutively particularizing media. Manifestos emerge from the margins to challenge and politicize universals by juxtaposing their particular perspective with the status quo's totalizing universalisms. In the manifestos analyzed, the Anthropocene is temporalized and eventualized as a moment of meta-consensus, a space of appearance and pre-figuration, a moment to initiate movement. The manifestos rhetorical exigence is to politicize the spatial-temporality opened by the Anthropocene. In this way, the manifestos are kairopolitical. Each manifesto produces a counter temporality, a reading that posits a critical intervention in one or more of the universal imaginaries. The disparate counter narratives of the Anthropocene offer different cuts in its linear progression of time and attempt to find spaces to escape from its totalizing geometry. A diffractive reading of the Anthropocene as a 'kairotope' (McAlister, 2010), a temporally and spatially figurative rhetoric, challenges these universals and poses the question; what does a counter-public appropriation of the Anthropocene's rhetorical invention look like? Can the Anthropocene be made to condition a space for imagining alterity and opening up the commons to more sustainable and equitable relations of living? To answer that question it is necessary to read the paratextual criticisms and challenges that circulate around the contemporary Anthropocenic manifestos analyzed. I aim to problematize the Anthropocene's appropriation without denying its implications. Rather than suggest that, as humans', we might "rhetoric our way out of it" this project affirms the Anthropocene's global ecological exigence in effort to theorize how such a challenging and conflictual consensus might postulate new relations of solidarity and sustainability that begin with the interobjective materialism of the earth itself.
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