Dirty Theory: Dirt and DecolonisationHélène Frichot

Even though its collected materials were based on thoughts gathered in an electronic folder over a number of years, the brief book Dirty Theory: Troubling Architecture (2019) was written in a rush of enthusiasm and constitutes little more than a collection of notes to self. The final chapter before the conclusion fleetingly raises the question of dirt and (de)colonisation, which inevitably leads to questions of practices of extraction. Extraction and extractivism not only direct attention to mass disruptions and redistributions of the earth’s surface in this geological epoch of the so-called Anthropocene, including associated impacts on mental and social ecologies, but constitute a burgeoning terrain of discourse across the Environmental Humanities. This lecture aims to deepen the discussion raised in the relevant chapter of Dirty Theory, with a focus on the extraction and subsequent transmogrifications of dirt that take place when mobilised from one site to the next. The mobilisation of dirt impacts social relations, benefiting some, disadvantaging others according to the persistent violence of a colonial logic subsequently fast-tracked within a neoliberal integrated world capitalism. This notion of how dirt in one location is revalued as an object of reverence (for use and exchange) elsewhere, is something that was already ventured in Mary Douglas’s famous ethnographic work on the sacred and the profane. It is a material transformation that becomes vivid in the recent work of Jane Hutton on reciprocal landscapes (2020). This lecture will discuss how the transmogrification of dirt pertains equally to dirt understood as concept and as a material, and how dirt cuts along intersectional lines of gender, class, and race. In conclusion, I hope to open up the discussion to new methodological directions that a dirty theory might invite.

Architectural theorist and philosopher, writer and critic, Hélène Frichot is Professor of Architecture and Philosophy, and Director of the Bachelor of Design, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning University of Melbourne, Australia. She is Guest Professor, and the former Director of Critical Studies in Architecture, School of Architecture, KTH Stockholm, Sweden. Her recent publications include Dirty Theory: Troubling Architecture (AADR 2019) and Creative Ecologies: Theorizing the Practice of Architecture (Bloomsbury 2018).