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Journal Article

Off-centring empire in the Anthropocene: towards multispecies intimacies and nonhuman agents of survival


Kirbis,  Annika       
Research Group Empires of Memory, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Kirbis, A. (2020). Off-centring empire in the Anthropocene: towards multispecies intimacies and nonhuman agents of survival. Cultural Studies, 34(5), 831-850. doi:10.1080/09502386.2020.1780279.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-BE72-4
This paper examines colonial legacies in human-nonhuman relations to off-centreempire in the Anthropocene. Imperial methods of collecting, preserving anddisplayingnatureprofoundly shaped species perception, which in turn affectedthe scientific attention and ecological relevance a species was granted. Inparticular, I reflect on the category ofinvasibilityto show how empire sanctionedthe mobility of specific population groups and animal species as border-crossing. This further shows how speciesist logics served to extend, maintainand legitimize imperial power. This analysis is relevant in the Anthropocenewhere invasibility is mobilised to police movement in the context of increasedhuman and nonhuman migration. Further, I discuss how invasibility isconsidered as one of main threats for biodiversity, which may misdirectconservation efforts. Overall, the article examines the potential in human-nonhuman encounters to challenge colonial legacies. Based on an ethnographicexample of multispecies homemaking with species considered invasive in(hetero)normative modes of intimacy and domesticity, I argue that coloniallegacies of racialized, gendered and speciesist hierarchies can be disturbed byhuman-nonhuman relations of companionship, care and interdependence.Finally, I scale-up the analysis to the landscape, by tracing the transformation ofa former imperial wasteland in Vienna’s peripheral South from being perceivedas economically and aesthetically worthless to a natural monument. Attendingto multispecies entanglements is key here to understand the transformativeprocess that led to the recovery of this wasteland. Here I off-centre empire bychallenging anthropocentric narrations of how landscape transforms in favour ofa narration that re-centres nonhuman agency. I argue that stories of wastelandrecovery guided by nonhuman animals are crucial due to the increase inindustrial wasteland and environmental degradation in the Anthropocene.