- Queer Coal:Genealogies in/of the Blood
An inhuman equation
A genealogical account of coal ± a solar line of descent
Solar -/- plant -/- coal ≤ plant minor/miner ≠ bloodline
Fossil fuels are dark and patient and have a history that is in/of the blood. Fossil fuels are pockets of sunshine that have a solar line of descent. Fossil fuels are a chemical “blood knowledge” (Cixous 1991, 103) that coheres at the seam, coal face, plant, and picket line.
A genealogical account of coal in the Anthropocene must go in two directions: into the specificities of bodies, sites, and political formations in which coal comes to matter and through inhuman agency and its continuance notwithstanding the human (as if the human, like Bataille has claimed, is a roundabout for energy, a mere diversion of the forces of the cosmos). If the global claim for geologic force in the Anthropocene is realised through the liberation of vast standing stocks of fossil fuels by major powers, then slicing through Anthropocenic monumentality requires a deliberately minor/miner cut, which is made here through underground passages, sexual politics, and queer solidarities to explore the inter-implications of substances and subjects in coal mining; explicitly, mining is considered as an aesthetics, method, and epistemology that elaborates on an inhuman sociality of the blood; it is a sociality whose passages are specifically located within the 1984–85 miners’ strike in Britain. I focus on these minor (Deleuze and Guattari 1983) stories of solidarity and violence amidst the broader landscape of coal as a defining social materiality in political, judicial, and class powers. While Anthropocenic [End Page 203] discourses claim a global instantiation on behalf of humanity, the planet, and the species-being, this blood knowledge of coal can be considered as an instantiation or a fleshy reminder of the geontological forces of black rocks and their inheritances; what René Char called “its reality of earth, its matter-emotion” (Char quoted in Blanchot 1995, 108) in the corporeal impregnation of an incorporeal universe. In these messy personal-political subjectivities that are entangled with fossil fuels, something might be said about how to begin to apprehend the geontological coordinates of the Anthropocene and the possible forms of sociality that the inhuman enacts (and incites) in ways that eschew its universalising claims.
In this process of joining coal to its somewhat unexpected sociopolitical formations—in terms of queer and minoritarian support for the British coal miners—I want to say something about a biopolitics that is subtended by geology (and this is why there is/and will be/blood). This is a biopolitics that moves away from the governance of life and death into a consideration of how the geosocial formations of fossil fuels constitute the very possibilities for certain types of social, sexual, political, and labor arrangements. To study the geosocial matrix as it pertains to both power and possibility is not to add the geologic (or inhuman) as a supplement to an already existing biopolitical conceptualization. Rather, it is to register that the geologic is a mode of material expression that is already active within these formations, yet often bracketed out, and its political potential as a dynamic power within socialities, underplayed. Such an understanding of the permeable materiality of fossil fuels might just bear on the reconceptualization of the Anthropocene as an epoch characterized by a differentiated corporeal geology of/in the blood, rather than as a universal stratigraphic trace in some future geologic record.
Against the Promethean trust of the Anthropocene, I follow Hélène Cixous’s dream in The Book of Promethea of “writing fire in the fire” (Cixous 1991, 134); an account made in proximity to the desirous intersection of experience. Such a mode of feminist geophilosophy seeks out the form of the underground—the underground as a way of being or a “thing state” (Lispector 2014, 109)—closing the gap between writing and being written. What follows is a fragmented genealogy that begins in the general conditions of inhuman matter and ends up in the specifics of the British coal mining strike in the 1980s. First, some mining methodology and Anthropocene drill sites.