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Dr Daniel Matthews
University of Hong Kong

The Anthropocene thesis, and the unfolding climate crisis to which it draws attention, prompts an encounter with the complex entanglements between humans and other animals. In the context of a larger study into sovereignty in the context of the ‘new climatic regime’, this paper draws on the work of Giorgio Agamben (The Open: Man and Animal) and Jacques Derrida (The Beast and the Sovereign) in order to think through the connection between sovereignty and the supposed division between ‘human’ and ‘animal’ life. Both thinkers argue that any ‘politics to come’ – which might transcend the structures of modern sovereignty – will need to develop a political thinking that abjures the staid and supposedly oppositional categories of ‘human’ and ‘animal’. This paper aims to outline the stakes in Derrida and Agamben’s thinking in light of the Anthropocene thesis and its various entailments with a particular attention to how a critical discourse of ‘obligation’ might help supplement and extend their analysis.

Dr. Daniel Matthews is Assistant Professor of Law and Deputy Director of the Law and Literary Studies BA/LLB programme at the University of Hong Kong. He teaches and publishes in the fields of legal theory and law and literature with a particular focus on questions of sovereignty, jurisdiction and political community. His current research – funded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council – assesses the challenges to theories of sovereignty posed by planetary climatic change and the onset of the Anthropocene epoch. A monograph entitled Earthbound: The Aesthetics of Sovereignty in the Anthropocene is forthcoming with Edinburgh University Press.

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