Better Spectres

Today I read ‘The Fossils and The Bones,’ chapter 3 of Povinelli’s Geontologies (2016). Amazing! Related to the talk she gave at PAF, but more precise, sharply observed. It raises issues that seemed to me to resonate with your enigmatic term ‘Better Spectres,’ which I propose is a more suitable name for this project). She talks about how certain relations between life and non-life give rise to ‘manifestations’ in a world, that Povinelli argues contra to much of Speculative Realist thought which considers non-life as indifferent, is rather ‘intensely interested.’ Therefore when things are manifest or revealed, one is somehow compelled to be attentive, work out what it necessitates and act accordingly. For example, upon the revealing at low tide (karrabing) of a cave that contains a durlg bone:

The durlgmö may have buried itself as a statement of anger or jealousy … To avoid the malevolent effects of such jealousy one had to show one cared by going through the effort of visiting, talking about and interpreting the desires of things. One had to protect them from being unhinged and distended. Thus Bilawag told me not to tell any other white people where the bones were lest they come and dig them up, crate them up, and take them away. (p. 62)

Soon after, following an example of human bones being found in a mangrove Povinelli writes:

White people would be too quick to remove them, too numb to feel a non-human aboutness, towardness, wantness. They would instead rapidly isolate them, disrupting the coordination, orientation and obligation of existents that creates the in sutu. A double alienation threatened—in the sense of property law and the affective attachment of existents. (p. 69)

Povinelli threads through her observations a critique of Meillassoux’s trope of the arche-fossil. It’s good!

I coupled my reading with a trip to the amber museum, to see some of the local fossils. I was struck by some of the ‘jewelry’—amulets, ornaments, etc—of the local people from the neolithic period. The lady at the museum told me they were used for good luck, to ward off evil and also for their healing properties. They were also included in burial offerings.


Life vs Nonlife

Breathing (Carbon-based metabolism)

It is the larger, breathing drinking and perspiring public that is left out of the online chemistry lesson but is now an increasingly unavoidable factor in global life as every aspect of industrial based production and consumption is related back to the planetary carbon cycle … Indeed, the shift of scale entailed in the study of Anthropogenic climate change is what allows biologists to link the smallest unit of life and death to planetary life and death (the planetary carbon cycle). And this shift in scale allows the thought of extinction to scale up from the logic of species (species extinction) to planetary logic (planetary extinction).

(Povinelli 2016, pp. 42–43)


By way of toxicity in the smelting of mined Manganese, potentially sourced from the murder/desecration of Two Women Sitting Down.

Life and Nonlife breathe in and breathe out. Amd if Nonlife spawned Life, a current mode of Life may be returning the favour. (p. 44)


Spoiler alert!

The event of becoming might have been the claim that Two Women Sitting Down did not die, was not murdered and was not desecrated. What she did was turn her back on the world as it is being organised by becoming something that will potentially extinguish that world and the way we exist in it. (p, 56)

Thus, leading onto the politics of making such claims.


Mushroom as a ‘figure’ between Nonlife and Life.


  • also disappearing knowledges that correspond with disappearing species
  • No Utopia (a modernist dream) Towards survivance, but must think through this carefully – heterotropia (Foucault), ‘futurology of the present’ (Cuevas-Hewitt)
  • (Relates to history of PT, in that clinics would develop ‘socials’ that people were reluctant to leaveo