The Murmurs of the Outside: Uncivilised Thinking for a Planetary Age

Martin Savransky (University of London)

February 17, 2023, 14h30

Keynes Room, Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra


As we ponder how to make sense of a suffocating present marked by toxic atmospheres, planetary upheavals and socioecological devastations in what some call the Anthropocene, in this talk I proffer the idea that we are living through nothing less than an “interior disaster”. Recalling the five-hundred-year history of colonialism, capitalism and extractivism through which the modern world-system was built, I suggest that modernity has above all been an ongoing and unfinished project of systematic interiorisation carried to the ends of the earth: the production of a geosocial and geopolitical order where (almost) everything has and continues to be connected, captured, formed, emplotted, civilised, systematised, brought inside. Which is why it may be that the challenge that this planetary age poses is that of reclaiming a passion for the outside, of rendering oneself capable of (re)learning how to listen to its murmurs, to become accomplices to the always immanent and inappropriable forces of an outside that insist and persist in the midst of the established terms of order and occasionally burst within. Elaborating a thought and pragmatics of the outside cannot, however, be the billionaire’s dream of packing up and sailing through so-called “outer space” in pursuit of an annexation of the planets that would have made a certain colonist blush. What it calls for instead is a radically different, uncivilised ecological imagination attentive to zones of indeterminacy, anarchy, and contingency composed in the interstices and outlaw edges of every territory, where subaltern forms of sociality and speculative methodologies of life are improvised in the act of striding the movements and forces of an unstable and tumultuous earth. This project of uncivilised thought for a planetary age is what I have come to call “exology”. This talk, therefore, is as much an alternative diagnosis of the modern world as an invitation to appraise the potential of an exological imagination.

Bio note

Martin Savransky is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he convenes the MA Ecology, Culture & Society. He's the author of Around the Day in Eighty Worlds: Politics of the Pluriverse (Duke University Press, 2021) and The Adventure of Relevance: An Ethics of Social Inquiry (Palgrave, 2016), and the co-editor ofAfter Progress (Sage, 2022) and of Speculative Research: The Lure of Possible Futures (Routledge, 2017). He is currently writing a new book-length project tentatively titled The Murmurs of the Outside: Planetary Improvisation and Uncivilised Life.

Activity within the Doctoral Programme ‘Governance, Knowledge, and Innovation