The Anthropocene in the Humanities

Anthropocene
\ˈan(t)-thrə-pə-ˌsēn, noun
the Anthropocene, a proposed term for the present geological epoch (from the time of the Industrial Revolution onwards), during which humanity has begun to have a significant impact on the environment

The Anthropocene has recently become the subject of scholarship not only in the sciences, but in the humanities, as well. The following special issues and special sections of Public Culture, the minnesota review, and Cultural Politics address the ever-growing presence of the Anthropocene in the humanities.

ddpcult_26_2_webIn “Visualizing the Environment,” guest editors Allison Carruth and Robert P. Marzec write, “This special issue of Public Culture explores forms of environmental image making and visualization in the context of the Anthropocene.” Contributors to this issue “aim to spark dialogue about how visual technologies and media—from satellite imaging and military simulation to animation and infographics—are shaping contemporary perceptions of both ecological risks and environmental movements.”

For a sense of environmental visualization and the Anthropocene, sample “Visualizing the Anthropocene” by Nicholas Mirzoeff. In this article, Mirzoeff claims that visual representation of the Anthropocene obscures rather than reveals environmental and social injustices.

ddmnr_83_webThe most recent issue of the minnesota review addresses the Anthropocene through the lens of literary meditation. Section editors Tobias Boes and Kate Marshall note that the ultimate goal of this project was to “describe, narrate, and imagine this moment in geologic time.” “These consequences can be aesthetic, political, or ecological or some combination thereof,” they argue, “but they often involve a reorganization and rearticulation of otherwise familiar concepts whose linguistic and cultural environment has changed along with their physical counterpart.”

Read more from “Writing the Anthropocene: An Introduction” by Tobias Boes and Kate Marshall here.

ddcup_10_3_webThe most recent issue of Cultural Politics features an article by John Beck entitled “The Call of the Anthropocene,” which addresses timekeeping.

In this article, Beck addresses the Anthropocene in relation to time-capsule projects, specifically the EchoStar XVI communications satellite launched in late 2012 and currently in geostationary orbit around Earth. He argues that this time capsule and others are a manifestation “of progressive modernity’s commitment to timekeeping—to the successful capture and command, interpretation and anticipation, of past and future times.” It is, he writes, “the futureless call of the Anthropocene.”

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