Justice: the micropolitics of relation

JUSTICE

 

THINK: Humans find themselves in a contemporary moment of increasing complexity and uncertainty. Many scientists agree that the earth has transitioned into the Anthropocene epoch: a new era in which human activity has become a geophysical force capable of altering the earth's natural systems. In the Anthropocene, natural and cultural phenomena have become entangled to such a degree that they cannot be prised from one another. Climate change is a natural-cultural phenomenon that is widely distributed across space and time, and yet intimately touches our lives every day. The sun burns our skin, just as we burn fossil fuels in our engines and ancient minerals in our phones. All of these are local manifestations of climate change as a nonlocal phenomenon that is massively distributed (Morton, 2013). What has become clear is that material, social and technological change is accelerating, regardless of our ability to account for the ethical implications of these changes. New knowledge practices and ethical systems are called for which can effectively respond to such rapidly changing ontological conditions.

 

Posthumanist theory provides a dynamic set of conceptual tools for reconsidering issues of social and ecological justice in the Anthropocene. Such approaches destablise long-held notions of human exceptionalism to make way for relational and emergent forms of collective subjectivity. More open and relational ontologies are starting to gain traction in their rejection of an entrenched hiearchy of being which has persisted through centuries of Western thought. From these speculative perspectives, all things can be seen to exist equally and yet differently in collective worlds that are profoundly complex and interconnected.

 

Posthumanism suggests that justice needs to become multiple in its performative discernment and application within situated contexts. We can start to consider the concept of 'little justices' which give voice to the more-than-human worlds we co-inhabit every day. To do a 'little justice' is to perform a collective, micropolitical experiment within the place and time of encounter. A 'little justice' plays out in a minor key, in between the major legal and political structures of Justice writ large. A 'little justice' can be as small as a gesture, a word, or an image that recognises and acknowledges the diversity of being. In this way, each 'little justice' is also as large as an ethics that grants all things the right to exist equally, and yet differently, with other things. The work of the artists below provide 'speculative precedents' for a posthumanist ethics that is made tangible through creative acts of 'little justice'.