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Vertical Fire: For a Pyropolitics of the Subsurface

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>14/04/2020
Publication statusAccepted/In press
Original languageEnglish


The geopolitical - or more specifically pyropolitical - crisis
triggered by combusting fossilized hydrocarbons can be viewed in the
context of a much longer human history of utilising fire as a means of
traversing and utilizing the Earth's subsurface. The paper develops a
conceptual framework to show how the developing fire-subsurface nexus
advances through a succession of different human enfoldings or
‘involutions' of fire that serve to intensify its force. This is
explored at three critical junctures: the earliest hominin uses of fire
in the geologically active landscape of the Great Rift Valley, the
chambering of fire by ancient artisans and the material and political
significance of its products in emergent city-states, and the role of
explosive weapons in gunpowder empires. Finally, the paper circles back
on the question of how revisiting the longue durée of human fire-subsurface
entanglements might help us conceive of alternative pyropolitical realities.