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Markers of the Anthropocene: Bringing Human History to the Fore of a New Geological Period

Sat, March 17, 3:30 to 5:00pm, Riverside Convention Center, RC F

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


Over the last fifteen years, there has been no shortage of ways to discuss the Anthropocene and its ramifications. Most recently, Will Steffens et al. have used scientific techniques to periodize a new geological epoch. Prior theorists from a range of disciplines have used the term and its allied concepts to think through anthropogenic alterations to the global ecological system. In addition to the ecological impact of the human species, the dimensions of the Anthropocene and the residues of human influence on the globe have also made their mark on intellectual and material history, long before scholars coined and bounded the term’s applications.
This roundtable examines some historical markers of the Anthropocene. Under this umbrella, panelists will unify topics ranging from Enlightenment thinking about human intervention into nature, indigenous responses to settler colonialism, and twentieth-century pathways via which food goes from soil to humans, spanning cultural contexts from East Asia to the Arctic North. The concept of the Anthropocene has changed the shape of environmental thinking, altered human and animal cultures and bodies, intensified agrarian systems and influenced energy use and power relations between disparate interest groups. The material, social, and intellectual effects of the Anthropocene demonstrate how the Anthropocene as a geological period and a cultural mentality converge to reconcile the past, present, and future of life on earth.
Scholars from different career stages and disciplinary backgrounds will discuss the utility and pitfalls of Anthropocenic thinking by addressing a range of thematic questions including: how does a new geologic period bring history to the fore? What is the role of the natural world in an anthropogenic geological period? How can we balance the novelty of the Anthropocene with historical contexts and critical theories? Should and how can historians weave local stories into the larger tapestry of the Anthropocene?

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