Cosmopolitics: the kiss of life (New Formations 76, Summer 2012)
Author: Deborah Bird Rose
Deborah Bird Rose
A portrait of Australian flying fox life in the Anthropocene illuminates startlingly familiar stories. These animals are participants in most of the major catastrophic events of contemporary life on Earth: warfare, man-made mass death, famine, expulsion, urbanisation, emerging diseases, climate change, and biosecurity. At the same time they are the targets of conservation action and local/international NGO aid. They are endangered, and are involved in all the major factors causing extinctions. Equally, they are a keystone species and their looming extinction portends wider waves of extinction. My account of flying foxes in Australia focuses on the plan to expel them from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. Whilst arguing for an urban cosmopolitics of emergent convivialities, my study is required to move in a darker direction. I am inspired by Stengers‚Äôs account of cosmopolitics and her definition of politics which focuses on who is entitled to speak about questions of our common destiny. Research with flying foxes shows that in advance of the question of who speaks, determinations involving terror and expulsion depend on severing any sense that there is or could be a common destiny. Radical social exclusion, phrased in righteously banal terms, precedes and comes to authorise the species cleansing involved in expulsion. Peace, if it can grasped at all in such a context, requires multiple recursions across a terrain in which we name and resist the acts of terror that purport to separate us out into divergent¬†destinies.