Skip to main content

The Underworlds Series: Breath as Site of Global Dis/Ordering

When: Wednesday, November 22, 2023, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Where: Online

School of Law, Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context, and LSE Law School logoAs part of the Underworlds series, this event focuses on breath as site of global dis/ordering.

Rather than concentrating only on how the right to breathe is formally recognised (or not) in international law, this event foregrounds the patterns of dis/ordering that are embedded in infrastructures of toxicity, and the unevenly allocated affordances of breath and breathing these engender. This entails an attentiveness to forms of political resistance, new approaches to law and normativity, and modalities of political subjectivity that this focus on breath and breathability can foster (as investigated by the Logische Phantasie Lab’s Decentralized Right to Breathe). How, Breathing Aesthetics asks, are forces of ‘extractive capitalism, imperialism, and structural racism’ tied to and materialized in the ‘contamination, weaponization, and monetization of air’? Which political coalitions and practices of resistance can emerge from such emergent configurations of breathing injustice?

The speakers

Daniela Gandorfer is a lecturer at University of Westminster Law School, London, an affiliate of the Ethics Institute at Northeastern University, Boston, and the co-founder of Loph, a non-profit organization dedicated to decentralized and community-based approaches towards governance at the intersection of climate change, political reorganization, and new digital technologies. Before joining Westminster University, Daniela held postdoc positions at Princeton University and UC Santa Cruz, California. She received her PhD from Princeton University and is currently pursuing a MSc in Finance at LSE. Daniela’s research focuses on legal theory as well as on scientific and technological frontier spaces - such as web3, quantum physics, and psychedelics - and their implications for emerging forms of normativity and governance. She is the recipient of the 2021 ASciNA Young Scientist Award, and has co-edited the Research Handbook in Law and Literature (Edward Elgar Publishing) as well as the Theory & Event special issue ‘Matterphorical’ (Johns Hopkins Press). Her book Matterphorics: On the Laws of Theory is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

Jean-Thomas Tremblay is Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities at York University, in Toronto. He is the author of Breathing Aesthetics (Duke University Press, 2022), a co-author, with Steven Swarbrick, of Negative Life: The Cinema of Extinction (Northwestern University Press, 2024), and a co-editor, with Andrew Strombeck, of Avant-Gardes in Crisis: Art and Politics in the Long 1970s (State University of New York Press, 2021). Jean-Thomas’s current project, ‘Eco-subtraction: Downsizing the Environmental Humanities’, is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. His monograph in progress, The Art of Climate Inaction, challenges the absorption of climate action by expansionist models under late liberalism.

**Please note this seminar is online and joining details will be sent the day before.

Event resources

  • Jean-Thomas Tremblay, Breathing Aesthetics
  • Arthur Rose, Asbestos – The Last Modernist Object
  • Timothy Choy, Ecological Reparation: Museum of Breathers
  • A quote from Patricia J William’s Alchemy of Race:
    ‘In discarding rights altogether, one discards a symbol too deeply enmeshed in the psyche of the oppressed to lose without trauma and much resistance. Instead, society must give them away. Unlock them from reification by giving them to slaves. Give them to trees. Give them to cows. Give them to history. Give them to rivers and rocks. Give to all of society's objects and untouchables the rights of privacy, integrity, and self-assertion; give them distance and respect. Flood them with the animating spirit that rights mythology fires in this country's most oppressed psyches, and wash away the shrouds of inanimate-object status, so that we may say not that we own gold but that a luminous golden spirit owns us’.
  • Visualizations (of a breathing instance; minted as NFT)

Visualisations of NFTs as multicoloured paint splats

The Series: Underworlds – Sites and Struggles of Global Dis/Ordering

Engagement with practices of global ordering is often guided towards specific locations and legacies: the sovereign state, the formal sources and standards of international law, the intricacies of global diplomacy, the historical juncture and its (anti-)heroes, the international palaces of hope in Geneva, New York, or The Hague. These explorations entail ideas of where power resides and where it is to be unmasked or undone – ideas implicitly grounded in modernist geographies, temporalities, and subjectivities. Starting from the limits of these familiar perspectives, this lecture and workshop series traces the multiple ways in which these sites, actors, and events are cabined, crossed, and cut apart by alternative material arteries, lineages, and languages of global dis/ordering.

The series takes as starting point that authority and order are not fixed properties of specific actors or institutions, but the result of ongoing material processes of ordering and world-making. As such, it traces unconventional forms and sites of global dis/ordering – from raw materials to projections of hope – as material, infrastructural, and discursive compositions that shape patterns of power. The encounter between old- and new materialist, Marxist and decolonial methodologies and modes of critique is one of the key objectives of this series. Its aim, however, is not only methodological: it aspires to inspire new ethical and political openings that attend to our inevitable complicity in taking part in these processes, and reveal new modes of resistance and refusal, of struggle and sociality. These interventions are not narrowly targeted at the old nemeses of critique – the state, the truth, the universal – but work from within both entrenched and emergent material sites and practices of dis/ordering: oceans, oil / coal, breath, debt, commons, frontier(s), waste, hope, wild / feral, vessels.

Find out about all the events in the series.

The series is convened by Marie Petersmann and Dimitri Van Den Meerssche and co-organised by QMUL (the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences and the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context) and the LSE Law School.

Back to top