Volume 52, Issue 2 March 2020

Conjunctural Antipodes

Conscious of Antipode’s rich engagement with conjunctural analysis, our editorial statement in the previous issue outlined a vision of the journal’s role in relation to the “tumultuous political conjuncture”. Antipode seeks to make sense of this conjuncture, in all its overdetermined complexity, in the hope of working with others to make things differently. For those of us returning to work (briefly perhaps) following massive strikes across UK higher education, it’s heartening to read all the papers in our current issue. Each seems to reinterpret the current conjuncture in particularly deft and agile ways. Indeed, as with the strikes, the latest issue pulses with the very finest, most outward-looking scholar-activism. Reading it lifts the soul in these dark times.

The issue kicks off with a symposium organised by the Relational Poverty Network that, as Crane et al. frame in their Introduction, deploys a conjunctural analysis to re-politicise poverty, moving from a distributional to a relational understanding of impoverishment, to quote Ananya Roy. Each paper in the symposium provides a deeply generative conversation between its authors, enabling both new understandings and new interventions.

Following the symposium, a paper from Camp and Greenburg develops Gramsci’s conjunctural analysis through a re-examination of the colonial foundations of counterinsurgency in US military doctrine. Through archival research, they tease out the racial narratives deployed, providing both new theoretical understandings of conjunctural analysis, as well as new interpretations of the current conjuncture. For Meché, this US imperial project is re-read and re-interpreted in particularly original ways through differing memories of Birmingham, Alabama – the memories of both Condoleezza Rice and Angela Davis. Deploying black feminist writings as well as writings on carceral geographies, Meché thereby teases out the complex spatio-historical conjuncture of this Southern US city and in so doing narrates a different history of the United States’ role in the world.

As with the best of Antipode papers, each in this issue embraces complexity, pointing to: the many relations through which power is exercised in the production of impoverishment (Crane et al.); the intricate ways in which fishers navigate dispossession in the context of Colombo, Sri Lanka (Radicati); the “stickiness” of territorial stigma in an area often portrayed as “Amsterdam’s ghetto” (Pinkster et al.); and the spatial poetics through which power relations are denaturalized in China (Smith). At the same time, taken as a whole, the issue opens up analyses of both longer-term dynamics, such as racialized dispossession, alongside the specificities that make the current conjuncture so distinctive, such as the rise of surveillance capitalism. Following (or rather not following) a video of responses to the 2009 uprisings in Iran, Akbari therefore traces the movement of data across Iran, while situating such an argument in relation to broader debates around data in the current conjuncture. Sadowski’s paper also intervenes in these debates with an analysis of the rentier relations emerging from platform capitalism, simultaneously providing a conversation with literatures in political ecology. As Lawhon and McCreary note, new techno-political configurations, such as these, present both opportunities and threats for organised labour: in a more optimistic response to what is often framed as a tension between jobs or the environment, they provide a further call for a Universal Basic Income. And in another paper that intervenes in debates around the environment and labour, Neimark et al. analyse the emergence of a new eco-precariat responsible for providing the formal and informal labour behind market environmentalism. Together, these two papers open up a range of fascinating debates around capitalism and the environment. We hope you will read and enjoy each paper – whether returning from strike action or performing your own work analyzing (and intervening in) the current conjuncture.

The Antipode Editorial Collective, March 2020

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