The Past & Future of the Anthropocene
University of Florida
Smathers Library 100
“The Anthropocene: Rethinking Environment & Society, Disciplines & Time”
Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany
Deutsches Museum, Munich
October 23, 6 PM
“Science & the Evolution of Planetary Politics: A Political Epistemology for the Anthropocene”
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany
Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany
October 24, 6 PM
Helmuth Trischler and Franz Mauelshagen’s talks, Bron Taylor and Betty Smocovitis’s responses, and the Q & A session with the audience can be viewed online from the “ICC Films” page.
About the Lectures
“The Anthropocene: Rethinking Environment and Society, Disciplines and Time”
When in 2000 the atmospheric chemist and Nobel laureate Paul J. Crutzen and the limnologist Eugene F. Stoermer proposed the introduction of a new geological era, the Anthropocene, they could hardly foresee the remarkable double valence of the new term. Only a few years later, the geological community began to investigate scientific evidence for the concept and established the Anthropocene Working Group. While the Working Group has begun to examine possible markers and periodizations of the new epoch, scholars from numerous other disciplines have understood the Anthropocene as a cultural concept. Anthropologists and historians, sociologists and political scientists, philosophers and theologians, as well as representatives of other scholarly communities have tried to make sense of the “human epoch” through the lenses of their respective disciplines. In addition, the media and cultural institutions such as museums have developed a deep interest in the broader cultural ramifications of the concept.
Dr. Trischler’s lecture sheds light on the controversies surrounding the concept of the Anthropocene and its inextricably linked dual careers as a geological and a cultural term. His lecture addresses the Anthropocene debate as a timely opportunity to rethink existing boundaries of thought, such as the environment and society-divide and related disciplinary barriers. He will discuss also new understandings of temporal change, and new temporalities shaped by scholars who are now challenging established stories and narratives of our epoch.
“Science and the Evolution of Planetary Politics: A Political Epistemology for the Anthropocene”
Over the last ten years or so the idea of an Anthropocene has wielded enormous influence over the entire spectrum of academic disciplines, including natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities. Increasingly, the concept of the Anthropocene is creating disorder in traditional ways of thinking about nature and society as ontologically distinct entities, which used to establish and maintain equally distinct realms of scientific knowledge. The idea of a new geological era dominated by human action is rooted in a still-on-going transformation of the “natural world” – paralleled and fostered by a transformation of the social world. Scientific knowledge has been a key force in both of these transformations, which makes the production of transformative knowledge – the kind of knowledge that evolves into a driving force fostering eminent change in society and its relationship with the environment – an obvious choice for the fields of Science & Technology Studies, philosophy of science, and the history of science. In my lecture, I will elaborate on the transformative power of scientific knowledge production in the Anthropocene beginning with the example of climate change. Climate science has turned into an outstanding political force in the international arena, and it has been politicized in a particularly dramatic fashion. I will argue, in the second part of my paper, that its prominence in this arena should be seen in context with planetary politics, which emerged during the Great Acceleration after the Second World War. Finally, I will proceed spelling out what this means with regard to political epistemology in the Anthropocene.
About the Speakers & Respondents
Helmut Trischler is the head of research at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, a professor of modern history and the history of technology at LMU Munich (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität), and the director (jointly with Prof. Dr. Christof Mauch) of the Rachel Carson Center. His main research interests are knowledge societies and innovation cultures in international comparison; science, technology and European integration; transport history; and environmental history. Helmuth Trischler is the author of twenty-eight books and edited volumes, some 130 articles, and the coeditor of a number of book series, including Umwelt und Geschichte (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht) and The Environment in History: International Perspectives (Berghahn Books), and Routledge Environmental Humanities (Routledge).
Franz Mauelshagen is an environmental historian whose recent work focuses on climate history and the European experience of unfamiliar environments in the framework of colonial migration. He is a senior fellow and member of the Board of Directors at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, where he coordinates the “Climate & Culture” research program. Since 2000 he has held postdoctoral research positions at the Universities of Bielefeld (2000–2003) and Zurich (2003–2008). He lectured at the Universities of Bielefeld, Zurich, Berne and St. Gallen. In 2010 he was awarded a research grant from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research for the project “Climates of Migration: Climate Change and Environmental Migration in History,” of which he is the primary investigator. He is a co-founder of the International Society for Historical Climatology and Climate History.
Bron Taylor is Professor of Religion, Nature and Environmental Ethics at the University of Florida, a Fellow of the Rachel Carson Center (at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munchen). An interdisciplinary environmental studies scholar, Taylor’s research and teaching engages the quest for environmentally sustainable and more equitable societies. Taylor has taught at The University of California, Long Beach, The University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, The University of Florida, the University of Colorado, the University of Bergen (Norway), and he has given invited and keynote lectures in more than two dozen countries. Professor Taylor’s central scholarly interest and personal passion is the conservation of the earth’s biological diversity and how human cultures might evolve rapidly enough to arrest and reverse today’s intensifying environmental and social crises. Dr. Taylor will respond to Dr. Trischler’s talk.
Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis is Professor of the History of Science at the University of Florida, where she teaches a range of courses in both the history and biology department. Her special interests include the history, philosophy and sociology of the life sciences and in the intersection of biology and history. She recently served as Kosciuszko Foundation Visiting Professor at the University of Warsaw, in Warsaw Poland, participating in a “nature and culture” working group, and where she led a seminar titled “The Climate of History: Pandisciplinary Perspectives for an Imperiled Planet.” Dr. Smocovitis will respond to Dr. Mauelshagen’s talk.
“The Past & Future of the Anthropocene” is sponsored by the UF Center for European Studies with the assistance of a Getting to Know Europe grant funded by the European Union Delegation to the United States of America. Additional support comes from the Department of English and the George A. Smathers Libraries. All ICC events are free and open to the public. No advance registration is required.
“The Past and Future of the Anthropocene” has been certified a Green-Level Sustainable Event by the UF Office of Sustainability, in recognition of “the highest level of effort taken toward sustainability” with regard to event planning, purchasing, promotion, transportation, and hosting. For more information about the Sustainable Event Certification program see this link.
“The Past & Future of the Anthropocene” poster by Madeline Gangnes