UCL Anthropocene


Anthropocene Histories

This partnership seminar series with the Institute of Historical Research explores the historical matrix of the Anthropocene

In the humanities and social sciences, the idea of the Anthropocene has become a powerful, if controversial, tool opening up different ways of thinking about humans, their environments, resource extraction, relations with non-human life, form of violence, the global, and the shape of the past. Our seminar accordingly explores the issues and possibilities raised for historians by ‘the Anthropocene’. The specific question of the Anthropocene’s arguable stratigraphic markers is not our primary focus, rather we will contribute to larger conversations by giving a thicker and more nuanced history to an idea often thinly-situated in politicised readings of modernity. Accounts of the Anthropocene need to address the ‘great acceleration’ of biochemical change arising from European colonialism, industrialisation and the fossil fuel era, but must be equally concerned with the deep-rooted histories of these processes, their institutions, and their supporting ideologies, from the earliest polities to the present.

Upcoming seminars will be listed on our events page and the IHR website.

Convenors: Anna Echterhölter (Vienna), Sophie Page (UCL), Amanda Power (Oxford) and John Sabapathy (UCL). Former convenors: Sujit Sivasundaram (Cambridge)

Previous seminars include:

‘Anthropocene and the Challenges of Deep Historical Imagination’

Pratik Chakrabarti (Manchester) with Anna Echterhölter and John Sabapathy (UCL) as discussants.

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'Original sin & the Anthropocene'

Sylvain Piron (École Des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris), with Juliane Schiel (Universität Wien) and Alexis Litvine (Cambridge) responding.

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‘Thinking with extinction’

A panel discussion with Elizabeth Boakes (UCL), Lee Raye (Open University), Sadiah Qureshi (Birmingham), & Sandra Swart (Stellenbosch), chaired by Sophie Page (UCL).

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‘What should historians do in the next decade of the climate crisis?’

A panel discussion with Andreas Malm (Lund), Julia Adeney Thomas (Notre Dame), and Ling Zhang (Boston College), chaired by John Sabapathy (UCL).

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‘Epistemicides and the resources of justification’

David Ludwig (Wageningen University), Elizabeth A. Povinelli (Columbia) and Sujit Sivasundaram (Cambridge)

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‘Animal History in the Anthropocene’

Erica Fudge (Strathclyde), Peter Adamson (King’s, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich), Dolly Jorgensen (University of Stavanger, Norway) and Nayanika Mathur (Oxford), chaired by Sophie Page.

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‘Teaching environmental history & the Anthropocene: challenges and possibilities’

A panel discussion with Karen Jones (Kent) and Mark Levene (Southampton), chaired by John Sabapathy (UCL), who also presented on behalf of Amanda Power (Oxford).

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'Climate in Motion: Science, Empire and the Problem of Scale'

A retrospective discussion of Deborah Coen's important book 'Climate in Motion: Science, Empire and the Problem of Scale' (Chicago University Press, 2018). Followed by commentary by Eva Horn (University of Vienna) and Richard Staley (University of Cambridge).

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'Whose Energy?'

A panel discussion with Nigel Clark (University of Lancaster) and Yuliya Yurchenko (University of Greenwich)

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'Locating the Anthropocene: Markers, meaning, implications'

Members of the Anthropocene Working Group discuss key questions surrounding the site recommendation to the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy as the geological reference point for the start of the Anthropocene epoch. With Simon Turner (AWG/UCL), Neil Rose (AWG/UCL), Andy Cundy (AWG/NOC Southampton), Jenny Bulstrode (UCL), Julia Adeney Thomas (Notre Dame), Adam Wickberg (MPIWG/KTH) and chairs Anna Echterhölter (Vienna) and John Sabapathy (UCL)

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