Cosmological reason on a volcano
This chapter is about how the populated slopes of the active volcano, Mt. Merapi, in Java, are a battle ground of ideas about what geology is. I show that understanding this battle helps us grasp the processes that make geology a political entity. What occupies this chapter, then, are the spaces of encounter between people and geological materials, the meeting grounds, as multiple and complexly constituted as they are, in which geology comes to shape how people can relate to one another. This battle ground is a social space in which the power to define and describe is at stake but at the same time geological materials do not sit idly by, ordered and manipulated by their human cohabitants but dramatically, and sometimes spectacularly deform, slide, explode, or unpredictably rest in quietude for years. In doing so they are in a rhythm that has its own share in ordering the conflicts of those who live on the slopes and try to predict and understand those materials. They are subject to its explosions and the volatile debris that both destroys and creates new conditions for growth and economic activity. Here, the battle is over how to define and explain what the volcano is made of, and therefore, what causes it. Living with such a volatile entity has compelled the mobilisation of technologies of measure, observation, appeals to gods, spirits, and fate, as a way to get in advance of, control, manage, and make sense of living in that space. These competing modes of knowing have produced controversies that unfold at the intersection of technological mediation and non-human energies that shape what can be known and how.
Bobbette, A. (2019)., Cosmological reason on a volcano, in A. Bobbette & A. Donovan (eds.), Political geology, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 169-199.
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