Country, City, Quarantine

by josie sparrow / August 25, 2020

Image: josie sparrow.

Bad New Times | Essays  }
What do horseshoe crabs, COVID-19, Stonehenge, ticks, and Kirstie Allsopp have in common? They all have a part to play in the story of how capital produces nature. 9874 words / 40 min read

In early March, the TV personality and professional toff Kirstie Allsopp was reported to have “fled London” after her partner tested positive for coronavirus. Her family retreated to Devon, where they keep one of their many homes. Defending herself, Allsopp said (and here I paraphrase):

This is where I have vegetables and eggs… we came to the place where we were safest where the dog could be walked… That’s what any reasonable person would do, that’s what the Queen has done… Prince Charles has gone to Balmoral, and he’s not Scottish.

Well, quite. How wonderful that the very people who benefit from and seek to extend the system of enclosure—be it through inflating house prices or maintaining ample lands for organised grouse murder—have recourse to such spaciousness in this time of quarantine!

To help me think through all of the historical and ideological currents that flowed so suddenly together, I turned to Raymond Williams’s The Country and the City.1 Perhaps the great thinker of the paternalistic, peculiar spatial relations of the so-called ‘United Kingdom’, Williams’s insight is both sharp and profound because it is rooted in his own lived experience. What, I wondered, would he make of this mass exodus of the wealthy to the clean air and empty spaces of ‘the countryside’? What would he make of the bucolic imagery mobilised by Allsopp, with her vegetable garden (in March?!) and her obliging hens? Or “Prince” Charles, escaping to his swathes of fenced-in land to recover in relative comfort? (No hint, of course, was given as to the fate of Charles’s retinue of servants, nor to the contradictions between self-isolation and service. One might ask, rhetorically, whether his attendants were permitted the same luxury of space.

The vision of the countryside as a healthful retreat is not new—the popular literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries abounds with references to “country air” and the restorative properties thereof. Before the arrival of the antibiotic streptomycin, wealthy people with tuberculosis were sent to Alpine sanatoria where they could benefit from pure mountain air. Less fortunate people were, of course, forced into more local sanatoria that more closely resembled prisons. The wealthy were protected from infection; the poor were indistinguishable from infection. And, of course, this relationship was multiple and mutual: the wealthy, who cause the allegedly unsanitary conditions that we find in the city (the polluted air, the poor housing, the endless circulation of people-as-labour), are at liberty to retreat from these conditions at any point—back to their privatised acres that should by rights belong to all of us, or to nobody at all.

As the pandemic progressed, and my world narrowed to a half-mile radius, I found myself thinking over and again about the production and organisation of ‘nature’, about enclosure, and about the multiple limitations imposed upon the lives of those of us who are poor. Confined to an unexciting strip of suburban North London, I (in the generative company of a vast array of thinkers, from Williams to Haraway) wrote myself a winding path through time and space, from place to place, across scales from the microscopic to the sweeping. Along the way, I stopped to look at the things that I encountered, and I asked myself how such a practice of attention might become a revolutionary praxis. What follows is some of what I found—necessarily provisional, always unenclosed, open to recombination and re-vision.

“Lord Antrobus’s Land”.

A year ago, finding ourselves close to the Stonehenge Ritual Landscape, we decided to try and find Blick Mead. A chalk-spring pool whose temperature never falls beneath 10℃, humans and other animals have been visiting Blick Mead for at least 9,000 years—long before the first bluestones were erected at Stonehenge, a mile away; longer still before the invention of a thing called ‘England’. We know that these visitors were here because they left traces, from hoofprints to pollen to huge deposits of stone tools, which some archaeologists have posited may have acted as an intentional and collective means of recording history.2 Until a few years ago, Blick Mead was thought to be what remained of an 18th century water feature: a rich man’s folly, nothing more. And yet this place, like so many others, is literally, deliberately, materially inscribed with meaning, with memory.

Thanks to the pool’s constant mild temperature, it never freezes over, meaning that it would have provided a welcome source of fresh water for all who lived on Salisbury Plain, from plants to humans to aurochs and insects. These different beings, meeting at the water, provided for one another the capacity to survive, and to flourish. Truly, then, Blick Mead was life-giving: this “lush, boggy environment dotted with ponds and thick with moss and grassy tussocks”3 was a space of multiple encounters; a place which drew a plurality of beings towards one another, and into a tissue of mutual support and interconnection.

One such encounter between radically different others takes place within the pool itself. It begins like this: around 100 million years ago, much of what is now Salisbury Plain was ocean. Tiny, single-celled phytoplankton algae known as coccolithophores lived there, and for millions of years they drifted happily in the warm seas, sharing their world with fish and plants and dinosaurs and the earliest mammals. Then, around 66 million years ago, something happened. Out of nowhere, an asteroid slammed into the Earth, in a place now known as Chicxulub, Yucatán.4 Death came quickly for some; for others, more slowly, as the debris from the impact clouded the sun. What the coccolithophores experienced, we cannot know—only that their calcified exoskeletons now lie in a layer across much of southern England. This layer of the Earth—which is time made solid, visible—is known as the Cretaceous: the chalk-formed.

Time passed, things settled. Grass grew; water filtered up through the chalk and formed springs and pools. One of those was the pool at Blick Mead. Animals came to drink and graze, and, eventually, so too came the animals we call humans. There, thriving in the shaded, leafy light, in the stillness of the water, lives an algal being called Hildenbrandia rivularis. H.rivularis prefers fresh, unmoving water that is mild in temperature and is softly alkaline—water, for example, that has passed through chalk. She is given life by her distant relations, who connect with her across time, across space, across unthinkable cataclysm, in the eternal geological now. She is a red alga, and when she grows on shards of flint that are submerged in the water, she dapples them with red. One day (or so it is thought), a curious human reached into the pool and pulled out a piece of red-dappled flint. As H.rivularis reacts to the air and to the drying flint, she turns a vivid shade of pink. This transformation—a colour-changing stone—seems to have elicited the same reaction in my Stone Age ancestors that the thought of it does in me: wonder, joy, a numinous sense of miracle. A sense of encounter. And so Blick Mead became a sacred place, an important place—a place where feasts were held, where histories were ‘written’ through the burying of objects. Archaeologists now consider Blick Mead to be the ‘first place’ in the Stonehenge Ritual Landscape—the reason people came there; the reason, perhaps, that the stones were erected, thousands of years later.

We wanted to find Blick Mead. We thought, perhaps naïvely, that we could collect a bit of flint along the way and dip it into the water. We imagined our own encounter with flint and air and water and H. rivularis, condensed in a single object, reminding us for years to come of stillness, of connection, of deep time, and of magic. We typed it into Google Maps: location found, no route available. We wandered in its general direction, but at every turn there was a blockage: a wall, a road, a monocultured field, a luxurious private home. After what felt like hours of wandering, we found a way in. Heaving ourselves up the steep, forested banks of the Iron Age earthwork known as Vespasian’s Camp, we set about walking through the woods, checking Google Maps every few minutes to be sure of our direction. Through thickets and wildflowers and tall banks of nettles we walked. And then we heard water. With delight, with anticipation we hurried down the slope towards the sound. As we drew closer, the sound of the water got louder—but it was joined by the sound of a generator, the sight of a white marquee. Oh. An archaeological dig! We entered the meadow, saw numberless trenches cut into the mud. A woman in wellies approached us: “Have you signed in with Barry?” “Um. We’re just walkers,” we replied. “We’re looking for Blick Mead.” “Oh, well, this is Blick Mead,” said the woman, irritably, “but you’re not allowed to be here. This is Lord Antrobus’s land!”—this latter in reverent tones. “I’m surprised you didn’t get shot.”

“Lord Antrobus”—actually Sir Edward Antrobus, 8th Baronet, to be precise—was born in South Africa, where he lives to this day. His Wikipedia entry describes him as a “former first-class cricketer”; on closer inspection, what this seems to mean is that he played two games for Cambridge University during his postgraduate studies in 1963. He inherited the woodland in which Blick Mead is situated as part of what remained of the once-sprawling Antrobus estate, which had included Stonehenge and much of the surrounding ritual landscape. Rosemary Hill, in her deeply conservative and misanthropic history of Stonehenge, recounts how Sir Edmund Antrobus, 4th Baronet—the current Antrobus’s first cousin twice removed—generously “offered to sell Stonehenge to the Government and named a sum of £125,000”5 (equivalent to around £15,500,000 today). The Government refused the offer, which left Stonehenge, in Hill’s words, “largely unprotected in law and in practice from the crowds”.6 The injustice of Antrobus’s attempt to extort vast amounts of public money by effectively holding an ancient, holy place to ransom—or that his private ownership meant (as was pointed out at the time, in observations that Hill dismisses as “rumours”) that Stonehenge could easily be dismantled and sold off to a US millionaire—seem rather to escape her. For Hill, Antrobus was “a custodian”,7 a man whose charging of an admission fee to the stones was justified by the fact that their enclosing barbed wire “was of a neutral tint”.8 His detractors were missing the point that “in fact Stonehenge had never been on common land” and engaged in a “struggle for ownership” that “countered” the “great advances in understanding and appreciation” achieved by the various lords to whom she does extended homage—chief among whom is Sir Edmund Antrobus, self-appointed Lord Protector of Stonehenge.

So much of this spaciousness is ‘preserved’ precisely because it has been, for centuries, enclosed by aristocrats who see each and every acre as merely a data point.

Hill’s peevish apologia for aristocracy does, however unintentionally, reveal something important about ‘the countryside’. So much of this spaciousness—including ancient places and wild woodlands—is ‘preserved’ precisely because it has been, for centuries, enclosed by aristocrats who see each and every acre as merely a data point, one component of their vast entitlement, which is itself taken to be in some way “natural”. In these places, shut off from the world, the collective activity of human history is suspended. The implicit suggestion seems to be that nothing we could say or do—no inscription we might leave behind us—could ever be worthwhile. And this lack of obvious inscription is held up as everything essential and beautiful and endangered about this land. We call it “unspoilt”.

But if ‘nature’ is where ‘people’ aren’t, what does that say about how we relate to human and non-human others? A plant can be uprooted with a twist of the wrist, a bug crushed with the slightest pressure of a foot. Why is it easier to tolerate that which we can master, that which can’t verbalise its feelings? And what happens when ‘nature’ refuses to be ‘mastered’?

The invention of ‘nature’.

Octavio Paz, in a rare moment of insight, once wrote that humanity “has invented [it]self by saying no to nature”.9 I would go further: humanity invented itself by inventing ‘nature’, this separate, often inert thing that seems to act as both canvas and medium (and, eventually, dump) for the Great Works of Man.

Our word, ‘nature’, comes to us from the Latin natura (genesis, nature, quality, essence), which is itself a rather limited translation of the Greek φύσις (physis or phúsis), which certainly contained some of the concepts indicated by the Latin natura, but also represented a whole way of understanding, rooted in the specific onto-epistemology and daily life of Ancient Greek society. Too often, it is assumed that concepts are abstract, translatable, and necessarily universalisable; that we can utilise Greek (or any) thought with little consideration of how, where, and why that thought was produced. Along with being an extractive attitude, this has two notable (and interconnected) effects: firstly, the anachronistic reading of old texts through modern assumptions; secondly, the reification into Universal Truth of an understanding that is at best partial. A “situated knowledge,” to borrow Donna Haraway’s term,10 acknowledges and embraces that partiality, refusing to take it for the whole. To think with the notion that knowledge is situated is also to recognise that the thinkers of Antiquity produced their thought in collaboration and conversation with their immediate environments, as well as oral traditions, myths, history, and so on. We may never know with absolute certainty why the Greeks thought and recorded what they did, much less how they came to think these things, and what ways of thinking have not survived the intervening centuries.

What we can do, however, is look at their language. Gerard Naddaf, in a book entirely dedicated to examining the meaning of the word, argues convincingly that, in the context of pre-Socratic Athens, physis referred to “the origin and growth of the universe as a totality,” including “humanity and the society in which they reside”.11 The word “is never employed in the sense of something static,” he continues, “although the accent may be on either the physis as origin… as process, or… as result. All three, of course, are comprised in the original meaning.”12 This “fundamental” meaning, for Naddaf, might be glossed as “growth… ‘the realisation of a becoming… with all its properties.” 13

This reference to ‘properties’ signals that, for all its (relative) lack of anthropocentrism, this is of course, still a form understanding with a view to mastery, or at least control; but nevertheless, it seems clear that when the pre-Socratics talked about nature, they took it to include humans and the social order. What’s more, although it is probably true that Homer & the pre-Socratics represent, as Adorno & Horkheimer claim,14 the beginning of the long process by which “myth turns into enlightenment, and nature into mere objectivity”, this was not causally necessary. To the early Greek thinkers, physis was by no means a reduction to the “merely” physical. It referred to something active, changeable, perhaps unpredictable, and probably mystical: there is evidence to suggest that, for some thinkers, gods and mythic beings themselves were a part of (or possessed) physis.15 Mere nature—nature as instrument, as resource, as something separate from ‘us’—had not yet been invented.

“A Government of the Landlord.”

To create the notion that ‘nature’ is separate from ‘people’ (and therefore both infinitely exploitable and infinitely enclosable), people must be separated from nature. This was accomplished in a double movement: the adoption and popularisation of certain Enlightenment attitudes towards ‘nature’ as an external, abstract object of study, plus the introduction of new forms of enclosure, as well as the expansion of earlier forms.16

The project of enclosure was a project of rationalisation towards accumulation: How best can the maximum amount of resources and profit be extracted from this land? The old open-field system, with its common pastures and woodlands, its fallow fields, meadows, and marshes, was simply not efficient under the new scheme. Surely these sprawling, unfenced fields could be put to better use raising sheep for the booming wool trade. We’ll pay the evicted peasants a wage to process the fleece. Oh, there’s a machine that can do the job instead? Very good, very good. And what is this patch of land where the landless peasants grow their food and build their huts? Why, they’re practically stealing money from our pockets! Turf them out; there’s always room for more sheep. As for this practice of leaving one field fallow every year—ridiculous! Superstitious! Inefficient! Plant it every year, with a single, valuable crop: after all, as Mr Ricardo says, the soil is imbued with “original and indestructible powers”!17 And when the soil, contra Ricardo, fails, no matter. Help is close at hand: there are vessels making their way back from “Chili [sic], Peru, and Africa”18 laden with looted guano.19

With common land now enclosed and privatised, “waste” land put to use, and agricultural labour increasingly mechanised, thousands of dispossessed and displaced people moved into the cities. No longer able to plant and to harvest, or raise a sheep, or to fell a tree to build a hut, they found themselves dependent on wages as their only means of survival. “To be part of the proletariat,” Jules Joanne Gleeson has written, “can only be to have one’s creative potential constrained and delimited by more rudimentary forms of fulfilment being rendered starkly conditional.” Too often we accept this as a fact of life (indeed, some of the task of left theory and practice is to de-naturalise the wage relation)—so much so that it is difficult to imagine how it must have been for these great multitudes of people who suddenly found themselves forced to come to terms with this new way of being that had been imposed upon them.

Raymond Williams described this new way of life as “industrial suffering”.20 Can we imagine the trauma of this experience? To be forced from the place to which you belonged, to have that intimate connection broken; a connection not only to place and to time (my grandmothers lived here; so too will my grandchildren), but also to the very means of survival. Even those who were able to resist the pull of the cities found themselves subject to an unfamiliar, legalistic framework that imposed real limits on their everyday lives: the distinction between occupier and owner. As EP Thompson observed:

the social violence of enclosure consisted precisely in the drastic, total imposition upon the village of capitalist property-definitions… Those petty rights of the villagers, such as gleaning, access to fuel, and the tethering of stock in the lanes or on the stubble, which are irrelevant to the historian of economic growth, might be of critical importance to the subsistence of the poor… The loss of the commons entailed, for the poor, a radical sense of displacement.21

The argument was that this was freedom. Rather than ploughing the same furrow for generations, workers were no longer tied to a specific place. They were free to move around as they pleased, and to sell their labour to the highest bidder. In theory. In practice, however, the situation was rather different, and workers both recognised and resisted this right from the begging. As a certain ‘Journeyman Cotton Spinner’ pronounced, in a speech given in Manchester during the strike wave of 1818:

It is in vain to insult our common understandings with the observation that such men are free; that the law protects the rich and poor alike, and that a spinner can leave his master if he does not like the wages. True; so he can: but where must he go? why to another, to be sure. Well: he goes; he is asked where did you work last: ‘did he discharge you?’ No; we could not agree about wages. Well I shall not employ you nor anyone who leaves his master in that manner.22

It’s striking how familiar this story is, even 200 years on. The literal, atomising, isolating freedom of ‘free labour’ has never been a substitute for collective liberation.

This remaking of life extended not only into historical time (the connections, specific to a place, between generations of living things), but also into everyday, social time. Moments now became, as in Marx’s quotation from an 1860 factory inspection report, the elements of profit.23 Where before time had been experienced in cycles corresponding to the liturgical and agricultural years, now time itself had been rationalised and rendered ‘efficient’. The notion that each season called for particular types of human activity—or inactivity—was abolished, along with the idea that the world, with its inconvenient weather, exhaustible soil, and tiresome habits of adhering to such anachronisms as “day” and “night”, should represent any limits on production. The old rhythm, whose “labours of the months” both apportioned work according to the needs of the growing season and factored in time for festival, play, and rest,24 was dead. Under the new order, no amount of production was too much, and so “the working day [contains] the full 24 hours, with the deduction of the few hours of rest without which labour-power is absolutely incapable of renewing its services.”25 This, in Henri LeFebvre’s memorable phrase, is “the progressive crushing of rhythms and cycles by linear repetition”.26 Our very lives are parcelled out, rationalised, abstracted from and set in opposition to everything that made our living possible in the first place. This is alienation on a grand scale, an existential scale. It would be wrong to suggest that the lives of peasants were easy, or enviable, or that they didn’t contain considerable shares of misery and discomfort. A reliance on the seasons and the weather had disastrous effects as well as good ones—the droughts and floods that heralded the Little Ice Age are a notable example. To be able to cut wood and build one’s own shelter can sound appealing to those of us struggling against the rent system, but the inadequacy and draughtiness of those huts can be imagined. The argument is not that we should go back, but simply that a relatively slight improvement in material conditions (often, just the shift to a different kind of contingency) for a relatively small number of workers, globally speaking, has been—and continues to be—achieved at great expense (consider Rana Plaza, Foxconn, the extraction of coltan in the Democratic Republic of Congo, etc. etc.). The traumas of poverty, of overwork, of displacement are real and generational. To paraphrase Ruskin, we don’t want the life of the thirteenth century back; we ask only for a way of living beautifully and happily now.27 To be neither peasant nor prole, exploiter or exploited. To heal the wounds of alienation.

Another—and slightly earlier—form of enclosure was that of the country house. The destruction of the monasteries meant that huge swathes of productive land became available for secular exploitation. It was, as Williams writes, “a government of the new kind of landlord… the mystified feudal order replaced by a mystified agrarian capitalist order, with just enough continuity, in titles and in symbols of authority, in successive compositions of a ‘natural order’, to confuse and control.”28

Coinciding with—or perhaps creating—the boom in the wool trade, the new landowners rapidly converted their holdings to pasture. Whole villages were destroyed or left to ruin and dissolve. Meanwhile, extending the exclusive leisure-logic of the Norman deer park, huge houses popped up, surrounded by landscaped parkland that was specifically intended to act as the most picturesque and dramatic scenery. The landscaping trend, Williams argues, derived not so much from the new vogue for Grand Tours as it did from 17th century Dutch landscape painting, which was associated with “bourgeois improvement”29 and “scientific inquiry into nature”. The Grand Tours may have provided visual inspiration for the landscaping projects of the new landlords, but it was this Enlightenment attitude of improvement and objectification that provided the ideology: “that kind of confidence, to make Nature move to an arranged design”.30

Here we find again the question of meaningful inscription: who is permitted to leave their traces upon the land? For these houses were not only created as comfortable places from where one could observe the Scenery one had, godlike, summoned into being. Their intention was also, as Williams notes, to “break the scale”; they were (and remain) “a visible stamping of power” upon the land. “How long,” he continues, “and [how] systematic the exploitation and seizure must have been, to rear that many houses, on that scale.”31

Who is permitted to inscribe themselves upon the land, to leave a footprint, to be visible to history and important to society?

The country house as enclosure, then, also represents a rationalisation of land—an imposition, enforcement, and literal naturalisation of a particular social order. Who gets to enjoy sweeping parkland and empty space? Who is permitted to inscribe themselves upon the land, to leave a footprint, to be visible to history and important to society? What forms of exploitation make this way of living possible, and what forms of exploitation, both urban and rural, are rendered possible by the existence of this way of life? It seems clear that ‘nature’, as organised and imagined within capitalism, is predicated entirely upon the domination and objectification of all kinds of lives.

It’s not just that, as in Jason Moore’s shrewd observation, a modern industrial farm and a proletarianised city home are both sites of exploitation that rely upon, and thus (re)produce “highly capitalised natures”;32 that the country house, the urban factory, and the Caribbean plantation are mutually interlinked. It’s also that our very oppression is taken to be ‘natural’, entirely immutable, impossible to change—even as the landowners and the mill-owners and the plantation-owners were (and are) themselves engaged in a project of remaking ‘nature’ for their own ends. This contradiction is no accident: they literally designed it this way. Williams’s account of this dynamic is worth quoting at length:

The clearing of parks as ‘Arcadian’ prospects depended on the completed system of exploitation of the agricultural and genuinely pastoral lands beyond the park boundaries. There, too, an order was being imposed: social and economic but also physical. The mathematical grids of the enclosure awards, with their straight hedges and straight roads, are contemporary with the natural curves and scatterings of the park scenery. And yet they are related parts of the same process—superficially opposed in taste but only because in the one case the land is being organised for production, where tenants and labourers will work, while in the other case it is being organised for consumption—the view, the ordered proprietary repose, the prospect.33

So when I hear—as one often does—that these gross country estates have, through their very enclosure, ‘preserved’ the land, I think: what has been preserved, and for whom, and for what purpose? And, really, what has been preserved? A partial, aestheticised, reified conception of ‘Nature’ that can be used to sell a fantasy of ‘England’, even while, in the cities, local authorities sell off every last bit of land for flimsy ‘luxury’ developments with names that make them sound like think-tanks? A set of repositories from which scientific knowledge can be extracted and sold on the academic labour market? A nice view for some unthinkably rich people? And when I ask, preserved for whom?, the answer rings back, loud and clear: not for you.

The purpose of these grand estates, then, has always been to dominate—both visually, by imposing themselves upon the landscape, and ideologically, by representing and reinforcing systems of class-based oppression, exploitation, and control. “The working farms and cottages,” Williams writes with sadness, “are so small beside them”.34 This smallness, in contrast with the enormity of the ‘big houses’, represents real powerlessness, it’s true. But there are other kinds of smallness; kinds that not even the most rigorous enclosure can exclude.

Older than continents, older than oceans.

On a muggy evening, a few days after we returned from Blick Mead, I felt what I assumed was a bead of sweat on the back of my thigh. Reaching down to brush it away, I instead made contact with another body, buried deep into my own. Immediately I began to panic. I called my partner over, had him check it for me. “It’s just a weird freckle,” he said. “Shine a light on it,” I urged him; “see if it has legs.” He shone a light on it, and, after a moment’s silence, he gave the answer I was dreading: “It’s got legs.”

Ever since I learnt what a tick was, I had been inexplicably terrified of ‘getting’ one. For all my understanding of hybridity and co-creation—for all my knowledge that what I call ‘my body’ is neither ‘mine’ nor a single ‘thing’—for all my commitments to non-violence and against anthropocentrism—my first and most instinctive thought was: get this thing out of me. Although I’d witnessed several friends struggling with Lyme disease, it was not the risk of Lyme infection that troubled me the most. Rather, it was the act of having been pierced, punctured, broken open: an uninvited and unwelcome intrusion.

Ticks are ancient beings. The latest date proposed for their evolution is the Cretaceous period—around the time that the land around Blick Mead was being formed. They have survived numerous apocalyptic events and the mass extinctions that followed. Ticks, it would appear, are older than the continents, older than some oceans. At some point—thought to be quite early on—they evolved to feed on blood, and have been merrily extracting this precious liquid from mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles ever since.

A tick’s life is essentially a long process of repeated gestation and remaking. Once hatched from an egg, a larval tick immediately seeks a source of blood. After feeding, they will detach from their feeding-place and nestle down somewhere safe amongst the grasses to moult; that is, to remake themselves as nymphs. When they are ready, the nymphs will once again seek a source of blood, and the feed/detach/remake process repeats. Newly-emerged mature ticks locate source of blood, feed until engorged, and at the same time, they mate. Once they have completed this rather orgiastic experience, the fertilising tick (the ‘male’) will generally die first, while the fertilised tick will find a grassy spot to lay around 2000 eggs, and then follow their co-parent into death. Depending on environmental conditions, this cycle of reproduction can take as little as one year, or as many as four.

When a tick finds a source of blood, it can take up to two hours to find a good spot and prepare itself to feed. Once they have settled upon a place, they grasp the surrounding skin tightly, produce some anaesthetic saliva, and make their incision. Next, the tick inserts a feeding tube, along with a mysterious substance called ‘tick attachment cement’, which helps to keep them anchored and steady. They then feed slowly over a period of days, mingling their bodily fluids—and any pathogens that may be embedded therein—with that of their food source. When they are ready, they detach—or, as in the case of ‘my’ tick, they are forcibly detached before they are ready. This can be quite a gruesome process: the tick might be dismembered or their body crushed. Sometimes, if particularly torturous methods are used, they may even vomit from stress and discomfort.

As my partner rummaged around trying to find the tweezers, the tick in my thigh continued to drink my blood, in blissful oblivion re. their impending doom. I considered what we were about to do: we were going to end a life. The tick didn’t mean me any harm! It just wanted to live! What was I doing? And yet, letting it remain nuzzled into my flesh was unconscionable.

After the tick and I had parted ways, I spent several days in reflection, checking my instinctive action against my ethics over and again. I thought about Donna Haraway. I hadn’t reacted as I did out of some yearning to restore what she had described, in her Cyborg Manifesto, as my “impermeable wholeness”35—something impossible to achieve anyway, tick or no tick; an Enlightenment fantasy of self-reliant individualism. Nor was it a wholesale rejection of what Haraway, in a more recent iteration (drawing on the work of Lynn Margolis and M Beth Dempster), has referred to as sympoieisis (making-together) or holobiosis (the process by which any number of living things become a holobiont, an ‘entire being’).36 Neither still was it a question of my failing to recognise the tick as a living thing: a compatriot. The action of removing the tick was, I eventually realised, an iteration of what Sophie Lewis has termed “acceptable violence”. Necessary precisely because, although we were both equally alive and both participant in one another (literally so, in the tick’s case), that participation was not equitable: I had not consented to this bodily co-extension, nor was it likely to offer much in the way of nourishment or co-creative, generative opportunity. Unlike the sympoietic examples Haraway offers up—deep-sea squid and luminescent bacteria; coral reefs—this was not a harmonious encounter.37

This is, perhaps, some of what is missed in eco-prophetic texts such as Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble (we might also add Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World, along with most things to emerge from the Timothy Morton-led school of (ahem) ‘dark ecology’). In their hurry to insist that humans are the problem, there is an accidental romanticisation of everything that isn’t human; an optimistic forgetting that some encounters are difficult, painful, even destructive. For all her (entirely correct) urging against the “zero sum games” of knowledge production,38 Haraway’s own proposition reads with a certain rigidity: one either understands and commits to the profound intertwining of all things, or one has an anthropocentric, oppositional viewpoint that can only cause harm. But I want to say this (and here, I am, as Sophie Lewis puts it, “reading Haraway against Haraway”): it is precisely because we are all intertwined—always already involved with the making and remaking of one another—that we are capable of causing harm. To truly meet one another, across divides both taxonomic and otherwise, requires that we hold an awareness of and respect for the world-making (and destroying) capacities of every body. Without this, how can we ever liberate ourselves from Euro-human exceptionalisms; from outdated and unacceptably violent ideas of passive ‘nature’? Ticks have survived the end of the world, over and over again. A single bite can, for humans, be life-changing, or even fatal. What kind of dominating, arrogant logic would it be to assume my own unquestioned supremacy?

A tick is not passive nature. A tick—bloodthirsty, violent, voracious—resists and destabilises the picturesque cosiness of the imagined, imposed rural idyll (an idyll that is, as we have seen, only remotely possible because of the decimation of whole lives and whole ways of life). Within the grand, oppressive sweep of enclosure, the small remains powerful: powerful enough that a single encounter might cause us to sicken or die. It would be wrong, though, to think of ticks as representing some sort of chthonic real existing in parallel with, but separate from, capitalised nature. Even the most ancient things are deeply intervolved with (and in) what is new.

The production of nature.

What does a tick have to do with capitalism and the enclosure of land? Quite a lot, it turns out. Brent Kaup has argued, using the US state of Virginia as a case study, that an increase of tick-borne diseases in humans can be directly linked to the late 20th century deregulation of financial markets and the shifts in land use that ensued. (Effectively: Ronald Reagan did Lyme disease.) At the same time as the US Government outsourced many key roles (drawing great numbers of upper-middle-class people to northern Virginia), interest rates on savings accounts were increasing, and mortgages were, for the wealthy and newly-wealthy, far easier to obtain. This combination of factors meant led to the construction of what Kaup calls “sprawling residential acreages”: single (huge) houses on enormous plots of land (Kaup writes that by the mid-90s, “lots greater than 1 acre accounted for over 90% of the land used for new housing [and] collectively made up more than 30% of the land in the contiguous 48 states”), in “low-density” areas. The age of the McMansion had dawned, and the rich celebrated much as the rich have always done: by building disgusting houses in politely picturesque—and, crucially, private—surroundings. But, as Kaup points out, the production of this neoliberal idyll, with its “trees, green grass, and… abundance of birds and deer”, its deeply racist suburban ‘safety’ from the perceived threats of proximity to Black life, “helped to create an ecosystem with a newly emerging bodily threat”: fatal tick-borne disease.

An increase of tick-borne diseases in humans can be directly linked to the late 20th century deregulation of financial markets.

Ticks, Kaup argues, thrive in fragmented forests—places with plenty of leaf-litter that can insulate them from the cold, but with plenty of sunlight, too, which encourages vegetation and, in turn, sources of blood in the form of mammals, birds, etc. Fragmented forests tend to have what Kaup calls a “large edge to interior forest ratios” owing to their “smaller patch sizes”—these edgelands, open to the light and to the wandering of animals, form a nourishing environment for ticks. And as more and more wooded land is razed and divided by the creation of roads, farms, and “sprawling suburban estates”, tick populations—and those of the viruses and bacteria to whom they play host—multiply. The tick who entered briefly into union with my upper thigh was an ancient being, yes—but they were also inextricably incorporated within the capitalist “web of life”.39 The enclosure of the land around Blick Mead, its planting and its landscaping, and its eventual selling-off, piece by piece, for farms and roads and homes—all of this (along with a decent amount of my blood) was contained by, and constitutive of, this tick. To paraphrase Derrida, there is no possible ‘outside-capitalism’.40

Following the Chinese collective 闯 (Chuăng), I think we can apply a similar analysis to the emergence of COVID-19. In their essay ‘Social Contagion’, they argue that “the conditions necessary for the transformation of ‘wild’ viral strains into global pandemics” are identical to the conditions created by the capitalist production of nature:

the ‘natural’ sphere is already subsumed under a fully global capitalist system that has succeeded in changing baseline climatic conditions and devastating so many pre-capitalist ecosystems that the remainder no longer function as they might have in the past… it’s a misnomer to think of such areas as the natural ‘periphery’ of a capitalist system. Capitalism is already global, and already totalising. It no longer has an edge or border with some natural, non-capitalist sphere beyond it, and there is therefore no great chain of development in which ‘backward’ countries follow those ahead of them on their way up the value chain, nor any true wilderness capable of being preserved in some sort of pure, untouched condition. Instead, capital merely has a subordinated hinterland, itself fully subsumed within global value chains… ‘wild’ areas are actually immanent to this global economy in both the abstract sense of dependence on the climate and related ecosystems and in the direct sense of being plugged into those same global value chains.

So we can see how, to borrow Derrida’s words, “the outside bears with the inside a relationship that is, as usual, anything but simple exteriority.”41 Even those areas which are not yet, in the preferred euphemism, ‘developed’ are affected, and the effects are bounded neither by space nor by time. Pollution from mines runs downstream. Ocean fish swallow microplastics and carry them on their voyages: part-fish, part-fossilised dinosaur, part-human labour. Acid rain falls on remote cloud forests. The factories of industrial England disgorge sulphur dioxide; people choke. The atmosphere recomposes, and a hundred years later, the Amazon is aflame. The pandemic, as I’ve written previously, reveals something about interconnection and interdependence. The air that we breathe, the movements of the wind, the patterns of the seasons—everything that seemed certain, solid, unconditional—all are revealed to be contingent, connected, connective, and co-constitutive. And as the continual expansion of capitalist extraction pushes animals into what Chuăng refer to as “less accessible areas where they will come into contact with previously isolated disease strains,” the fact that “these animals themselves are becoming targets for commodification” means that humans, too, are pushed up against “potentially protopandemic pathogens”—an encounter which “gives the virus more opportunity and resources to mutate in a way that allows it to infect humans”.

Like a tick, a virus is a living thing that seeks, like all living things, to reproduce itself. Like ticks, viruses are ancient beings. Like the specific tick whom I encountered—or like every tick in the Reaganite McMansion hell studied by Kaup—SARS-CoV-2’s existence is directly, intimately related to capitalism, capitalist extraction, and the capitalist production of nature. The imperative to extract ever more surplus value has, as we have seen, remade not only the places we live, but also our experience of time—something we have in common with farmed silkworms, whose life-cycles have been artificially sped up so that more silk can be extracted.42 All of us who live on this world, from virus to silkworm to me, writing this, are thus bound up together, for better and for worse. There is nothing and nobody that remains unmarked by the appetites of capital, our common condition. SARS-CoV-2 may have managed, temporarily, to halt some of the processes of circulation and extraction, much as a tick interrupts the cloying pastoral visions of mansion-dweller and ‘Anthropocene’-thinker alike—but capital will catch-up and exceed, nevertheless. It always does. And besides, the extraction of labour from many of us barely paused. In early May—as soon as the death rate began to fall—cleaners and nannies were ‘permitted’ to work once again (this despite the fact that the Ministry of Justice were aware of a potential COVID-19 ‘cluster’ amongst their cleaning staff, one of whom died shortly after a cleaning shift).

All of us who live on this world, from virus to silkworm to me, writing this, are thus bound up together, for better and for worse.

The worst of it is that not only will capital pick up precisely where it ‘left off’, but that it will have to extract even more in order to try and get itself out of its own mess, and therefore extend its life a little longer. From the lithium necessary for the production of solar panels to the very wealth that makes Western investments into ‘green’ tech possible, capitalism offers nothing but more extraction. It grants no hope of collective liberation, no routes by which all of us, together, might escape this cycle of harm and exploitation.

The logic of capital is the logic of the short-term, of the quick fix, constantly hovering on the edge of collapse and, in response, doing just enough to ensure its continued survival—until the next crisis. It’s a sort of temporal atomism—moments, as mere elements of profit, are held to be unconnected to one another in any other way. Individualism, private property, commodification, short-termism: all ways in which capital is structurally incapable of thinking interconnection outside the extractive regimes of the market and the supply chain.

Blue blood.

Horseshoe crabs aren’t really crabs—they’re ancient arthropods, ‘living fossils’, related more closely to spiders, scorpions, and ticks than they are to crustaceans. They live in coastal regions and spend their days moving across the ocean floor seeking out food. When the breeding season comes, they migrate to the shore, sometimes in attached pairs, whereupon they dig a hole in the sand and lay thousands upon thousands of eggs. The eggs are fertilised as they fall into the nest-hole, by which point the attached pair may have been joined by several other ‘satellite’ crabs, all of whom may also contribute sperm to the nest—communal kin-making in practice! They seem to be extraordinarily connected to place; research suggests that the crabs will only engage in this process when they are nestled in the sand or mud in which they themselves were born.

A horseshoe crab’s blood, when exposed to the air, is not red but blue: copper, not iron, helps carry oxygen around their bodies. When this blue blood encounters a pathogen, it rapidly coagulates and forms a gelatinous mass, effectively cordoning off the infected area from the rest of the bloodstream. The pathobiologist Fred Bang, curious about how these ancient creatures had endured, first observed this immune reaction in 1956, having accidentally killed one of the crabs on whom he was experimenting. A few years later, with the assistance of a haemotologist colleague who specialised in endotoxins, it was established that that particular types of bacteria prompted this clotting reaction. And those types of bacteria—known as ‘gram negative’ bacteria—were, it turned out, responsible for some of the most infectious diseases among humans.

The two biologists quickly realised that horseshoe crab blood would make a simple and elegant medium for contamination-testing anything that is intended to come into contact with the human bloodstream: artificial knees, parenteral drugs, vaccines. In 1977, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL)—horseshoe crab blood extract—for precisely this purpose. Ever since then, our chitinous comrades have been harvested, bled out, and returned to the sea. Attempts to breed them in captivity have proved difficult; research intended to overcome this difficulty has yielded the above insight into the environmental preferences of lustful crabs. Not content with extracting their blood, the accumulative gaze of capital also roams across their very beings, their reproduction, the most intimate facts of their lives. A synthetic version of LAL is now available, but the US FDA has declined to approve it as a replacement. In the meantime, any vaccine for COVID-19 will, if it is to be deployed in the US, be required to contain the extracted blood of horseshoe crabs.

As might be expected, horseshoe crabs find the process of being taken to a laboratory, strapped down under glaring lights, and having their blood extracted incredibly stressful, if not traumatic. In the US, it’s estimated that pharmaceutical companies perpetrate this violence on around half a million crabs, of whom around 30% will subsequently die. A depletion in horseshoe crab populations doesn’t just affect the crabs themselves, but puts entire ecosystems at risk. All kinds of creatures, from migratory birds (who are participant in multiple ecosystems) to rare terrapins, rely upon horseshoe crabs. There are doubtless other impacts, other risks, but this sort of cost/benefit analysis cannot tell the whole story, and usually works only as a means of shifting burdens and problems elsewhere; an attempt to fiddle the books, to move things between columns in hopes of achieving a balance that can only ever be temporary.

None of this is to say that a vaccine should not be produced, nor that medicines should not be safe; rather, it is a means of thinking through the tangled interconnections between the urban peripheries of central China, the Atlantic coast of North America, and the blood that flows through us, that reproduces us; between times, worlds, species. As with the tick in my thigh, there are difficult encounters, moments of narrow choice within complex and deeply-rooted systems of harm—and, within those moments, we can only do our best, with full knowledge of what’s at stake, and what makes our survival possible. A one-at-a-time, whack-a-mole approach to the harms of capitalism—it’s over here! now it’s over here!—will exhaust us, deplete us, and quite possibly kill us. The task, then, is to rail against the systems that produce these harms, be they economic, social, ecological, affective, or something else entirely. To accept that living beings are worthy of respect, gratitude, and gentle treatment; that they, and we, are irreducible to the designation of ‘resource’ or ‘commodity’. To resist the logic of the short-term, the atomised, enclosed time, space, or individual. To resist, in short, enclosure.

...the solution is not, can never be, more enclosure, more separation, more borders, more false dichotomies. ‘Nature’ cannot heal while people are sickening.


The English country estate, the plantation, the city, the laboratory, the industrial farm, the factory, and the patriarchal family home are (among others) sites of exploitation and extraction, the production of nature and the commodification of life. They are also places where joy, beauty, love, and justice can be, have been, produced—often by those whom the prevailing system of domination constructs as the most exploitable, the least valuable, the least human. ‘Mastery of nature,’ as I’ve written previously, is often just a different way of saying ‘mastery of others’.

All of this played on my mind when, back in March, Kirstie Allsopp and “Prince” Charles beat a hasty retreat to their bucolic boltholes, safely cocooned by the fact of their ownership. I thought about the ways in which the capitalist production of nature, through its remaking of the climate, the air, the conditions of life, is rendering this pastoral idyll (itself, as we have seen, a construction) increasingly impossible and in need of all kinds of ‘preservation’ strategies; about how access to ‘nature’ is now a luxury commodity. I thought about the ways in which the countryside is conceived and maintained primarily as a playground for the rich; about the village where I spent my teenage years, with its lush fields and woodlands, all behind fences, and its poverty like nothing I, an inner-city kid, had ever seen before. The way the area’s landowners would sometimes gather outside our house, all red coats and dapple greys, ready for the fox hunt. I thought about the gross parklands standing empty whilst in the cities, every last bit of common, public green space is sold off to developers; about how those parklands once were villages, commons, woodlands, now turfed-over, landscaped, enclosed. I thought about who has the right to inscribe themselves upon and within the land, to make themselves visible to history. And I thought about who has the right to escape; about how, as Williams writes,

when the pressure of a system is great and is increasing, it matters to find a breathing-space… What was drastically reduced, by enclosures, was just such a breathing-space, a marginal day-to-day independence, for many thousands of people.43

How wonderful it must be to make a home somewhere; to have, like Allsopp, a place to escape. To have “vegetables and eggs” (the labour of the soil, the labour of worms, the labour of chickens). How gruesome, though, that the notion of home is predicated on ownership, on enclosure; how grotesque the shut-off suburbs that are touted as aspirational to the likes of me. If we are to decommodify ‘nature’, we must also decommodify home, and the means of survival—because the capitalist production of nature both relies upon and reinforces the false dichotomy between ‘nature’ and the places we live. The false dichotomy between nature and ourselves.

The onslaught of much- (and correctly-) derided ‘nature is healing, we are the virus’ posts on social media are part of a continuum with the mansion-builders of the Enlightenment and the tawdry, Eurocentric pessimism of the contemporary adherents to the cause of the ‘Anthropocene’. They are also mistaken: SARS-CoV-2 is not an inoculation from The Wild, a messenger from the chthonic real. Its mutation and its spread are both attributable to expansive, extractive capital, as well as to the insistence on continued circulation: of the wealthy—the specifically global character of the pandemic is attributable to the international mobility of the affluent—and of capital itself—the numberless, overwhelmingly Black, brown, and working class people forced to put themselves in harm’s way at the height of the outbreak, in an attempt to insulate the economy from harm. The call, to coin a phrase, is coming from inside the house. It interrupts the cosy fiction that things are running smoothly, yes—but the solution is not, can never be, more enclosure, more separation, more borders, more false dichotomies. ‘Nature’ cannot heal while people are sickening.

What I’ve tried to show here is that the geographies of the world as we know it are not immutable or irrevocable. From the chalklands of Salisbury Plain to the beaches of Delaware; from the air that we breathe to the blood in our veins, from the division of land to the division of labour, nothing is eternally inevitable, and nothing is untouched by everything else. By offering our intimate attention to the things we’re not encouraged to notice, we can illuminate the conditions of possibility of the present situation. And when we ask what makes something possible, we raise the question of what might make it impossible. What would it take to render impossible this world of interconnected, overlapping harms? How, thinking with Denise Ferreira da Silva, might we “quest… towards the end of the world”,44 towards something new, a way of living, together, that did not, could not reproduce these harms? Could we, following Sophie Lewis, from our situated and partial view, as part of nature—a nature that is intervolved and intervolving, that is mutually co-creative, that is difficult and ugly and endlessly beautiful—begin to imagine “a nature worth fighting for”?45 How can we begin to separate the survival, the flourishing of all things from the grotesque machinations of the economy? To let this place be, as it is, a home, for all of us: safe, sufficient, with no need of escape or enforcement?

How, in short, can we begin to unenclose?

  1. Raymond Williams. [1973] 2016. The Country and the City. London: Vintage 

  2. David Jacques, Tom Phillips et al. 2014. ‘Mesolithic settlement near Stonehenge: excavations at Blick Mead, Vespasian’s Camp, Amesbury’. In Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine, 107: 7–27 

  3. David Jacques. 2014. ‘Return to Blick Mead: Exploring the Mesolithic Origins of Stonehenge’s Ritual Landscape’. In Current Archaeology 293: 24-29 

  4. Peter Schulte, Laia Alegret et al. 2010. ‘The Chicxulub Asteroid Impact and Mass Extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary’. In Science 327: 1214-8 

  5. Rosemary Hill. 2008. Stonehenge. London: Profile Books, p.142 

  6. Hill. Stonehenge, p.144 

  7. Hill. Stonehenge, p.146 

  8. Hill. Stonehenge, p.146 (quoting from Lady Florence Antrobus) 

  9. My translation; from the Spanish “se ha inventado a sí mismo al decirle ‘no’ a la naturaleza”.
    Octavio Paz. [1950] 1992. The Labyrinth of Solitude. Mexico City, Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, p.82 

  10. Donna Haraway. 1988. ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.’ In Feminist Studies 14(3): 575-99 

  11. Gerard Naddaf. 2005. The Greek Concept of Nature. Albany, New York: SUNY Press, p.1 

  12. Naddaf. The Greek Concept of Nature, p.15 

  13. Naddaf. The Greek Concept of Nature, p.35 

  14. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. [1944] 1997. Dialectic of Enlightenment. London: Verso, p.9; see also the chapter on Odysseus, pp.43-80 

  15. See, for example, Hesiod’s 8th century BCE poem Theogony (lit. ‘the begetting of the gods’), in which all of the gods are depicted being very materially born. There’s blood, there’s gore, there’s castrated genitals being lobbed into the sea. Plato was very angry about this poem—not because of the maritime genitals, but because to suggest that the gods were effectively part of the material world, rather than independent from it, was to reject the possibility of a divine intelligence that ordered and rationalised the world. It’s impossible to know, of course, whether Hesiod’s cosmology was entirely straight-faced in its framing, or if Plato was being Mad Online about what was effectively a piece of Classical shitposting, or if the truth lies somewhere in between the two. Nevertheless, the Theogony has been taken seriously for millennia—and so, to a certain extent, authorial intent is immaterial. 

  16. Despite what Paul Kingsnorth and the like would have us believe, the present system of land enclosure finds its beginnings not in the introduction of Norman feudalism, but in the Anglo Saxon period, as the new Christian elite established permanent centres of power both ideological and economic. These places, according to Samantha Leggett, were “seen as productive sites, taking over or catalysing much of the economic activity in an area”. See: Samantha Leggett. 2017. ‘The Power of Place: Colonisation of the Anglo- Saxon Landscape by Royal and Religious Ideologies.’ In Journal of Literary Onomastics 6(1): 76-94 

  17. David Ricardo. 1821. On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (Third Edition). Kitchener, Ontario: Batoche Books, p.39 

  18. Justus von Liebig. 1859. Letters on Modern Agriculture. Edited by John Blyth. New York: John Wiley, p.179 

  19. Von Liebig’s text is genuinely fascinating: an early example of political ecology. His ability to think with energy seems ahead of its time, particularly his analysis of the way soil nutrients transfer into and produce the human body—albeit in service to his big idea of transferring metropolitan sewage back to the fields as manure (pp.179-83). 

  20. Raymond Williams. [1958] 1960. Culture and Society: 1780-1950. New York: Anchor Books, p.94 

  21. EP Thompson. [1963] 1991. The Making of the English Working Class. London: Penguin, p.238 

  22. Anonymous. 1818. ‘An Address to the public of strike-bound Manchester by a Journeyman Cotton Spinner’. Originally published in Black Dwarf; quoted in Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class, p.200 

  23. Karl Marx. [1867] 1990. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (vol 1). Translated by Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin, p.352 

  24. See for example this 15th century illustrated poem, which assigns an activity to each month, along with the appropriate tool, vessel, or other companion. Activities range from sowing, harvesting, and winnowing to listening to birdsong, curling up by a fire, and drinking wine. 

  25. Marx. Capital, p.375 

  26. Henri LeFebvre. [1981] 2005. The Critique of Everyday Life :Volume III:From Modernity to Modernism (Towards a Metaphilosophy of Daily Life). Translated by Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, p.130 

  27. Quoted in Williams. Culture and Society, p.159 

  28. Williams, The Country and the City, p.55 

  29. Williams, The Country and the City, p.176 

  30. Williams, The Country and the City, p.178 

  31. Williams, The Country and the City, p.151 

  32. Jason W. Moore. 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. London: Verso, p.114 

  33. Williams, The Country and the City, pp.178-9 

  34. Williams, The Country and the City, p.151 

  35. Donna Haraway. [1985] 1991. ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’. In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Abingdon: Routledge, p.178 

  36. Donna Haraway. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chtulhucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, p.60 

  37. Although, of course, the encounter has had a generative aspect—the tick has assisted me in the production of this particular piece of thinking-writing—this aspect is entirely predicated on the tick’s death. The fact that I could make theory out of it, after the fact, doesn’t seem to me to be particularly worth celebrating as generative. 

  38. Haraway. Staying with the Trouble, p.60 

  39. Moore, Capitalism in the Web of Life (throughout) 

  40. Jacques Derrida. [1967] 1997. Of Grammatology. Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, p.158 

  41. Derrida Of Grammatology, p.35 

  42. Kassia St Clair. 2018. The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History. London: John Murray, p.60 

  43. Williams, The Country and the City, p.152 

  44. Denise Ferreira da Silva. 2014. ‘Toward a Black Feminist Poethics: The quest(ion) of Blackness toward the End of the World’. In The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research 44:2, 81-97 

  45. Sophie A Lewis. 2019. Full Surrogacy Now! London: Verso, p.8 


josie sparrow (@ofthesparrows)

josie is a writer, an artist, and a philosopher. Her interests coalesce around the intersection of the poetic and the political, with a particular emphasis on process, relationality, socialism, ethics, ecologies, words, and flowers. Her future plans include dismantling capitalism and co-creating a more beautiful world, with and for others. She is General Editor at New Socialist. You can read more of her work at