The Agency of Assemblages and the North American Blackout

Jane Bennett

in Political Theologies

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226443
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237043 | DOI:
The Agency of Assemblages and the North American Blackout

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This chapter argues that one of the consequences of globalization has been the expansion of the categories with whose help we situate (human) agency. References to “earth”, “empire”, and “networks” are legion, but this chapter proposes the Deleuzian term “assemblage” as a better way of analyzing the present whole and its style of structuration. The advantage of introducing this ad hoc and living grouping, a decentralized web, of sorts, is that it allows us to conceptualize the ways in which, at present, there are increasing interactions between the human and the nonhuman, animal and vegetal life, material nature and technology. In other words, reference to the assemblage enables one to understand the theoretical and empirical inadequacy of human-centered notions of agency. To illustrate this concept, the chapter cites the electric power grid and the ways in which analysts described the power blackout that struck North America in 2003. It asks how recognition of the nonhuman and non-individuated dimensions of agency alters established notions of moral responsibility and political accountability.

Keywords: assemblage; power blackout; agency; moral responsibility; political accountability; material nature; technology; electric power grid; North America

Chapter.  7194 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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