Book Review: influx & efflux: writing up with Walt Whitman, by Jane Bennett

Published date01 February 2022
Date01 February 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
182 Political Theory 50(1)
Espejo’s book is how much structural transformation of the existing states
system is necessary both to buttress local sustainability practices as well as to
meet the challenge of universal goals such as climate change abatement or
On Borders is a refreshing, innovative, and stimulating book that produc-
tively disrupts the common view of borders as walls that separate well-
defined nations or peoples into distinct and exclusionary territorial spaces. In
a world struggling with a debilitating pandemic and haunted by the foresee-
able catastrophic consequences wrought by global climate change, Ochoa
Espejo’s book models forthright engagement with the reality and normativity
of place that no “people” can afford to ignore.
1. Iris Marion Young, Global Challenges: War, Self-Determination and
Responsibility for Justice (Boston: Polity, 2007), 51–52.
2. Michal Saliternik, “Expanding the Boundaries of Boundary Dispute Settlement:
International Law and Critical Geography at the Crossroads,” Vanderbilt Journal
of Transnational Law 50, no. 1 (2017), 135.
influx & efflux: writing up with Walt Whitman, by Jane Bennett. Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 2020, 195 pp.
Reviewed by: Michael Epp, English Literature and Cultural Studies, Trent University,
Peterborough, ON, Canada
DOI: 10.1177/00905917211026704
Jane Bennett’s influx & efflux: writing up with Walt Whitman is a unique
contribution to the nonhuman turn in theory and philosophy. The book seeks
to accomplish many things; perhaps most prominently, it wants to see what
happens to the self and politics when we recognize the influence of things
that aren’t people on processes that have always seemed the most human.
More precisely, the book seeks to understand what happens when we locate
“the human on a continuum of lively bodies and forces – a continuum that
elides conventional dichotomies of life and matter, organic and inorganic,
subjective and objective, agency and structure” (xi). The book is often ele-
gant and modest, revealing only at the end the full sum of its welcome and
bold ambitions: to begin to articulate a model of self and action to accompany
“the project of finding a language apposite to influx & efflux” (118). Such a
language stresses exchange and influence over isolation and action, and casts
aside a life of borders and classifications to embrace instead a world of mem-
branes and permeations.

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