Stephen Collis

The Rise of the Biotariat

Allison Cobb's 'After We All Died'

Nursing the machine that killed us

It is difficult to sum up a book like Allison Cobb’s After We All Died. It is “about” the era of Geocapitalism (the so-called Anthropocene), but nowhere mentions it directly. It is not focused on climate change (which it also doesn’t really mention), animals (though there are a lot of ants), habitat, or any other number of artifacts and attributes that we might associate with the ecologically bereft present. What the book does is accept the premise that the threshold has been crossed, and for all intents and purposes, the human project is done. Now the postmortem can begin.

“We are the killers. We stink of death. We carry it with us. It sticks to us like frost. We cannot tear it away” — John Alec Baker, The Peregrine 

Between the Grasses and the Sentence

Layli Long Soldier’s WHEREAS

I began this series of commentaries with David Herd’s attempt to find a path through the largely legalistic language of the modern border. Layli Long Soldier covers similar conceptual territory in her brilliant new book Whereas (Graywolf, 2017), but she comes at the border, as it were, from the inside out. Writing from the position of an indigenous (she is Oglala Sioux) addressee of the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans, Long Soldier considers the affective impact of this empty statement as it participates in a long history of linguistic obfuscations and justifications of theft and genocide.

I began this series of commentaries with David Herd’s attempt to find a path through the largely legalistic language of the modern border. Layli Long Soldier covers similar conceptual territory in her brilliant new book Whereas (Graywolf, 2017), but she comes at the border, as it were, from the inside out.

David Herd: THROUGH the Border

David Herd
David Herd

I want to begin this series of commentaries on the Biotariat — a term I will use to explore the coming resistance of “bare life” — by looking at a poetry which directly addresses the legal excision of certain subjects. I have in mind here David Herd’s excellent 2016 Carcanet book Through, which, along with Herd’s organizing and editing of the Refugee Tales project and volumes, constitutes an extensive foray into the violence of borders and the creation and management of the state of exception. Herd explores the interpenetration of spaces and languages of, on the one hand, bordering and exclusion, and on the other, as a grassroots counter-system, spaces and languages of welcome and inclusion — thresholds, commons, and pilgrims’ paths.

I want to begin this series of commentaries on the Biotariat — a term I will use to explore the coming resistance of “bare life” — by looking at a poetry which directly addresses the legal excision of certain subjects.