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“Silkworms, Longhorns, and Power: How the Immaterialist Delusions of the West Fueled the Exploitation of the Global South”

  • University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany (map)

A public talk sponsored by the Global South Study Center at the University of Cologne. Here is the abstract:

By understanding power as a phenomenon that emerges from the human engagement with material organisms and things, we can ask why some nations of the Global North were able to exploit material things whose origins were often in the Global South for their own benefit. Specifically, I argue that it was the European (and in a related manner, Japanese) embrace of a radically immaterial understanding of human culture and power that fueled this differential success—a success that has now reached a new pinnacle of immaterialism with the neo-liberal faith in the virtues of a supposedly frictionless global capitalist markets. The advent of global warming and the (unfortunately named) Anthropocene Epoch is now, however, revealing the self-defeating illusions of western immaterialism, pointing us towards a profoundly egalitarian conclusion: that since all power fundamentally derives from the material non-human world, its benefits (and responsibilities) should logically accrue not to any nation or group, but rather to the human species as a whole.