Defining the Metabiotic

Bruce Clarke introduces the term metabiotic alongside his understanding of contemporary cybernetics as a category that bridges biotic and abiotic actors working in symbiosis. In this regard, it can be understood as a concretion of the ideas proposed by Gilles Deleuze y Félix Guattari in their seminal A Thousand Plateaus. From this understanding, the dichotomy constructed between culture and nature as a result of Euro-modernity is deconstructed. In line with contemporary thinking on the anthroposcene, instead a cybernetic model in which Nature and culture are symbiotic is proposed. In this model, both the material qualities of ecosystems, and their broader epistemological frameworks are understood to be formed by, and in turn form, “culture”.

In this framework, the metabiotic may be understood as the metaphysical constructs that shape organic and inorganic actors at infinitely variable scales. This category includes the role of art and media in their determination of shared epistemologies as well as their material costs of production and consequences. In order to map this ecology of biotic, abiotic and metabiotic factors, it is therefore necessary to entirely dismantle an understanding of Natural as Other from culture and to position the various components of ecologies as both symbiotic and co-forming. That is to say, each factor owes its ontological being to the becoming of the other factors.

As such, the ontological singularity of being is dismantled in favour of a symbiosis constructed across distinct beings. The metabiotic facilitates a linguistic capturing of this process as it takes place in the process of understanding systems. This understanding of “becoming”, “denaturalisation” and ontological plurality contains enormous resonance with queer-theory. The deconstruction of the category of Natural as Other, also permits the abandonment of the Natural as source of Universal truth and a hierarchy of knowledge that privileges those of a pseudo-natural. Sex, may therefore be detached from reproduction and in turn, gender from sex. Gender identity may be fluid and plural and queer-ontology may resist binary categorisation without endangering the validity of itself. This fluidity and plurality ought to be understood as a political provocation that extends to an epistemological proposition.

A metabiotic understanding of ecology is thus comparable with a queer understanding of sex and gender. Furthermore, a queer understanding of ecology aims to highlight not only this need for plurality as opposed to dichotomy, but aims to understanding the Natural as a site onto which hegemonic epistemology has been projected. The deconstruction of the site of the Natural therefore facilitates a process of the deconstruction of hegemonic epistemological and ontological values that restrict metabiotic and queer actors’ being.

This understanding strictly avoids the holding of indigenous knowledge as a Utopic-counter to Euro-Modernity; as Rita Segato warns against, but mandates the inclusion of indigenous knowledge systems as a destabilisation of hegemonic epistemology and pluralisation of our shared knowledges. This epistemological plurality both avoids the fetishisation of the Natural (and those indigenous knowledge systems colonially associated with it) and acknowledges the role of the metabiotic in the formation of ecologies.

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