4 February 2012

Book: Michel Serres, Malfeasance

At the beginning of 2011, Stanford University Press published a new addition to the slowly growing body of translated work by Michel Serres - Malfeasance: Appropriation through Pollution?, translated by Anne Marie Feenberg-Dibon.

Bearing strong resonances with earlier texts such as The Parasite and Rome: The Book of Foundations, the pamphlet-length Malfeasance marks his turn towards contemporary considerations of the confluence between ecology (particularly the human production/act of pollution) and property. Serres' irreverent remodelling of ecocriticism involves his signature pirouettes back and forward in time and smooth segues between themes of religion, advertising, waste, tenancy, etymology and innumerable others.  

Malfeasance demands a reassessment of our proprietary claims and the processes which mark ownership of body, space and soul. While often scathing in his critique, Serres pulls his tract back from the brink of wholesale negativity by proposing (ambiguously) utopian possibilities of freedom in the contradistinguished notions of tenancy, dispossession and "dis-appropriation".
"...pollution comes from measurable residues of the work and transformations related to energy, but fundamentally it emanates from our will to appropriate, our desire to conquer and expand the space of our properties."
A four-page excerpt and the table of contents are available from the first chapter of the text are available from the Stanford University Press website.

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