Visiting Speaker Series: Refuge in the Anthropocene

The Department of English Language & Literatures Visiting Speaker Series presents

Refuge in the Anthropocene: Rights, the Creaturely, and the Rise of the Biotariat

by Stephen Collis, SFU
9 November 2018
2:00 – 3:30 pm
BuTo 323

This talk takes up what at first glance appears to be a strange historical convergence: the rise to prominence of a discourse of universal human rights (exemplified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and the dating of the geological transformation ushering in the era of the Anthropocene, both of which attach to the immediate post-war years (1948-50 especially). What can it mean that the universal human subject arrives at the moment of the exploding of the human impact on the entire planet? What can it mean that both the post-war period and the contemporary moment, from which we retrospectively date the “beginning” of the Anthropocene, are historical high-water marks for human displacement and movement? In exploring the complex formed by refugee crises, human rights, and the Anthropocene, this talk will turn to questions of the “creaturely” and what I have been referring to as the “biotariat”—the radical subject that might suture the two “human universes” (as Charles Olson had it) opened in what we for a time called “postmodernity.” This will also entail a sideways glance at poetry, where some of this complexity is being worked out.

Stephen Collis’s many books of poetry include The Commons (Talon Books 2008; 2014), On the Material (Talon Books 2010—awarded the BC Book Prize for Poetry), DECOMP (with Jordan Scott—Coach House 2013), and Once in Blockadia (Talon Books 2016—nominated for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature). He has also written a book of essays on the Occupy Movement, and a novel. Almost Islands (Talon Books 2018) is a memoir of his friendship with poet Phyllis Webb, and a long poem, Sketch of a Poem I Will Not Have Written, is in progress. He lives near Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish Territory, and teaches poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University.

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of English Language & Literatures and the Art/Criticality/Theory Research Network

Visiting Speaker Series 2018-2019