Economic Sociology or Economic Ecology

Biomepolitics of the Silk Road

  • Thu 4 Feb 21

    16:00 - 17:15

  • Online

    Join the seminar

  • Event speaker

    Professor Scott Lash

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Sociology, Department of

  • Contact details

    Dr Maitrayee Deka

Join the Centre for Research in Economic Sociology and Innovation for an insightful online seminar with Professor Scott Lash.

Scott Lash is a Research Affiliate at School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at Oxford University, and Guest Professor at Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing

Economic sociology tends to address the economic determination of social action; or the social embeddedness of the economy; it brings social explanations into the economy; or looks at actor-networks of humans and objects in the economy. But what if we saw all this instead as an ecology? And did not speak the language of determination at all. Even dispensed with the idea of the agency of the economic subject whether in Weberian or Marxist sociology. To dispense even with causation. What if we thought instead in terms of an ecology, in which we engaged with our environment not by representing it but connected with it as a set of ‘affordances’ (Ingold)? What if the ‘actor’ or system or the ‘we’ at the heart of this Umwelt was a plant or a forest, or a mountain range? Newton spoke of causation, but Darwin instead of ‘selection’, of natural selection. Do we, do forests, select from their environment (Umwelt)? Are forests and plants and atmospheres, in the phenomenological sense, ‘intentional’?

This talk addresses such an ‘economic ecology’ in the context of China’s Silk Road. I’ll address it as, less a biopolitics than a ‘biomepolitics’. The Silk Road, whose logistics connected China to Rome via the Uyghurs of Xinjiang, via Persians (Indo-Iranians) and Alexandrian Greeks. Which was based on the biome-infused opposition of settlers (Han Chinese) and their opponents in the steppes, Turkic, Mongolian, Manchurian, Uyghur etc speaking horseback archers and their political economy of raiding. This is a geopolitics of the Yellow River alluvial plain biome, of the loess biome of China’s militarised northwest, of steppe and forest and desert biomes. Of Zarathustra’s Iranian (and monotheistic) plateau biome. We will look this silk road political economy as an ecology from the point of view of the biome itself.

This seminar is part of an open seminar series, hosted by the Centre for Research in Economic Sociology and Innovation.

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