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Gaia, Chippel and the double articulation

Elizabeth Povinelli invokes the issue of what makes Chippel, a rock formation at Karrabing, a form of life. It seems like in our naturalist constitution where Nature and Humanity are the guiding entities (very different from each other), life has a special status of something that is natural but with deserving some special normative attention ("it is really guided by a mechanism, even though it it is a complex one..."). The Karrabing community, however, involves Chippel - she cannot be counted out by a mining company. Povinelli argues that we should get out of what she calls the carbon imaginary that drives a line between the geotic and the biotic. Deleuze and Guattari's third plateau (The geology of morals) describes the interesting double articulation where at the same time substances make form (through sedimentation) and form makes substances (through orogenesis, folding). They are at the same time a double articulation of the molecular and the molar and a description of what makes up the floor. Floor is something common to whatever is sublunar: a floor is made by our lives on it (sedimentation) and it produces itself new things (through folding it produces strata but also roots, sprouting seeds etc). The floor is like a skin (pele and floor have apparently similar etymologies) but it is not the limit of an organism (or a planet) for the involving environment, as Deleuze and Guattari stress, is properly part of what is inside for they are fully dependent on what is at the other side of the membrane (as it is in the other way round, i.e. what is inside relies on what is outside the membrane). This is the case for living organisms but also for the Earth's atmosphere (as Lovelock has shown). The issue of whether Gaia is geotic and biotic - and therefore whether Chippel is geotic or biotic - gets metaphyisically dissolved. They are both creatures of the floor.

This is what I explored under the name of speculative dermatology. Dermatological structures should be looked at as the basis for a future animism: wherever there is skin, there is some form of animation even though it can take different forms and very different speeds. This is why professor Challenger - in Deleuze and Guattari's piece - is somehow an alter-ego of Geoffoy St-Hilaire: recapitulation is at the order of the day for skin structures are common animated structures present in the planet as a whole as much as in the interaction between the genetic and the environmental in each organism. Skin is a general scheme for animation - maybe better than life and encompassing the strictures of what is properly human. The animism to come will be dermatological.


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