Photosynthetic Justice

Monday, 8 April, 2024 - 16:00

Presented by : 


In this talk, I consider the cultural mediation of “atmospheric violence” (Hsuan Hsu) in South Africa alongside histories of ecocide that have long characterized industrialisation’s relationship to the earth. Placed at the intersection of the so-called Environmental and Vegetal (In)Humanities – or breath and botany – my paper analyses the documentary film Dying for Gold (dir. Catherine Meyburgh and Richard Pakleppa) to ask how plant ecologies and human health might be relinked amidst extractive capitalism’s ongoing assault on atmospheres and airways. My paper draws attention to recent struggles over breathable air at the heart, for instance, of the #DeadlyAir case and the “Living Limpopo” Campaign, to locate my reading of the film along a historical continuum of regenerative phytochemical relationships that continue to be severed by extractive violence. Even though the activist aims of Dying for Goldlie primarily in the immediate demands for compensation and healthcare for ailing miners, the documentary nevertheless prompts consideration of the interdependence of decolonial racial justice and phytochemical health. It does so by foregrounding the extractive rupturing of the mutually regenerative relationship between vegetative photosynthesis and the respiratory commons, and, by extension, of the need for a relational reckoning with both the human and nonhuman effects of atmospheric and “chemical violence” (Michelle Murphy). I conclude by using these insights as a springboard for a broader dialogue on what I call photosynthetic justice.

General seminar arrangements

  • The WISH seminar is hosted on-line every Monday afternoon at 16:00 - 17:00 SA during the teaching semester.
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  • Participants must read the paper prior to the seminar, which is typically available by the Friday preceding the seminar.
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