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As climate science has inventoried all available archives, an abundance of fresh data about the impacts of non-anthropogenic climate change on human history has come to light. This includes the original catastrophe: the moment when the curse of class fell upon our species.
The rise of the first class society and centralised nation state on Earth – pharaonic Egypt – was, we now know, preceded by the desiccation of the Sahara, a lush savanna home to classless bands of hunter-gatherers until 4000 BC. When the Sahara became a desert, its inhabitants were displaced into the Nile Valley, where an emergent class of exploiters could establish the era of domination: for there were no longer any escape routes.
This narrative, however, threatens to revive the spectre of environmental determinism, long combatted by critical scholars, including geographers such as Neil Smith. Can we make sense of the causal power of climate change in the emergence of class society without falling prey to that oldest of errors? This lecture will sketch a critical theory of climate, caging and class, with a focus on the case of Egypt. It has implications for the broader arch of history. To paraphrase The Communist Manifesto, the history of class struggles now seems to begin with non-anthropogenic climate change and end – whether as the revolutionary constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes – with anthropogenic ditto.
This event will be followed by a drinks reception from 5pm to 6pm.
Tickets are now unavailable for this event.