Accepted paper:

Expansive Affinities, Anti-affinities, and Industrial Chemical Alterlife

Author:

Michelle Murphy (University of Toronto)

Paper short abstract:

This paper seeks to experiment with alter-ontologies for industrial chemicals and their relations with living-being. How might life forms be understood to be enfleshed through expansive affinities and anti-affinities within the molecular beings of capitalism, colonialism and militarism?

Paper long abstract:

An apprehension of chemicals as isolatable elements in the world -- as PBDEs, PCBs, BPA - has shaped the logics of 20th century toxicology and environmental politics. Thinking with methods from Marx, one might call this a chemical fetish, or better yet, a concrete abstraction, that eschews the extensive relations that make this materialization of the elementarity of chemicals possible. In this normative way of apprehending industrial chemicals, chemicals enter bodies and then alter the metabolics of life forms. The elementarity of Industrial chemicals puts them outside of life. This paper seeks to experiment with alter-ontologies for industrial chemicals. It aspires to interfere with ways of tracing entanglements of chemical registers and life forms in a moment when all humans, and perhaps all life forms, have industrial chemical relations within them. Starting inside contemporary chemistry theory, with its attention to apprehending affinities, attractions, bonding, and potentiality within the wave/particular duality of molecules, this paper tries to follow the expansive affinities of industrial chemicals into understandings of symbiogenesis, and then more extensively into capitalism, colonialism, and militarism. How might life forms be understood to be enfleshed through expansive affinities and anti-affinities of the material molecular beings of capitalism? How might an alter-ontology of industrial chemicals, which is aware of the historical production and politics of elementary logics within the disciplining of both chemistry and life, attend to the attractions, transformations, persistences, anti-bonding, and phobic relations that partake in the generation of the more-than-assemblage relations of Industrial chemistry and living-being.

panel T122
Elements Thinking