TO BE PART OF THE PANEL 'POLITICIZING THE ANTHROPOCENE' ORGANISED BY STEFANIA BARCA: ‘This is the Hell that I have heard of’: Fossil fuel fiction in the Anthropocene/Capitalocene

Andreas Malm
  Andreas.Malm@hek.lu.se
  

Abstract

TO BE PART OF THE PANEL 'POLITICIZING THE ANTHROPOCENE' ORGANISED BY STEFANIA BARCA:

One overlooked source of knowledge about the route to global warming – and more generally, a source for critical environmental history – is fiction. After the rise of ‘climate-fiction’, it is time to return to a trove of literature written long before the discoveries of climate science: stories about fossil fuels. Focusing on two texts – Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun and Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon – this paper will make a case for developing ‘dialectical images’, in Walter Benjamin’s sense of the term, from fossil fuel fiction, which, as it happens, is often filled with premonitions of disasters such as extreme heat and terrible storms. These two texts offer glimpses of two important moments in the historical development of fossil capital: Kanafani’s on the boom in oil production in the Middle East after the Second World War, Conrad’s on the transition from sail to steam in global trade. Dialectical images from works such as these can contribute to a critical understanding of the historical roots of our current epoch, fracturing the narrative of the human species as a united entity ascending to biospheric dominance in the Anthropocene. The miseries of global warming have been in preparation for a long time. Some have felt the heat from the start.

Environmental Crisis