RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013

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111 Thinking the Anthropocene
Convenor(s) Rory Rowan (Wageningen University, Netherlands)
Chair(s) Rory Rowan (Wageningen University, Netherlands)
Timetable Wednesday 28 August 2013, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Sherfield Building, Room 6
Session abstract The central premise of the Anthropocene is that human activity has effected biological, chemical and physical conditions on the planet to such an extent that its impact can now be measured in geological time: human activity over the last three hundred years has produced a geological ‘age of man’ that will long outlast human life itself. Although still a hotly disputed in the scientific community the Anthropocene is a concept fast gaining ground not only in Geography but beyond in popular news media reports, speculative philosophy and the art world. As an idea that has the potential to profoundly shape the future of geographic thought, and perhaps even alter basic understandings of the human place in the world, it deserves a greater degree of critical attention from the discipline. This panel discussion brings together leading thinkers in human and physical Geography whose work focuses on socio-geological relations in order to examine the challenges the concept of the Anthropocene presents to social, political and cultural geographers and conversely what challenges they might present to it in turn?

Does the Anthropocene require a rethink of Geography’s fundamental ontological and epistemological categories and create the possibility for productive new engagements between human and physical geography, the social and earth sciences? Can it provide a useful framework for thinking about planetary geographies in a way that avoids the ideologically over-determination and anthropocentric bias of ‘globalization’ and open new avenues for understanding the nature, extent and significance of socio-ecological entanglements in light of climate change? Or rather does it simply reproduce familiar narratives about the danger of human attempts to dominate nature whilst invoking a perversely deterministic global history that diverts critical attention from the specific processes of social and natural exploitation that contribute to the uneven geographies of climate change. Is the Anthropocene a supremely depoliticising meta-abstraction that obscures the sites where precisely targeted social, political and environmental interventions might take place or can it widen the understanding of what can be considered political whilst providing a powerful idea around which a variety of struggles can find common cause? This session hopes to explore how geographic thought might negotiate these questions and assess how future thinking on the Anthropocene might develop.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2013@rgs.org
Panel Discussion
Nigel Clark (Lancaster University, UK)
Angela Last (University College London, UK)
Jan Zalasiewicz (University of Leicester)
Kathryn Yusoff (Lancaster University)
The central premise of the Anthropocene is that human activity has effected biological, chemical and physical conditions on the planet to such an extent that its impact can now be measured in geological time: human activity over the last three hundred years has produced a geological ‘age of man’ that will long outlast human life itself. Although still a hotly disputed in the scientific community the Anthropocene is a concept fast gaining ground not only in Geography but beyond in popular news media reports, speculative philosophy and the art world. As an idea that has the potential to profoundly shape the future of geographic thought, and perhaps even alter basic understandings of the human place in the world, it deserves a greater degree of critical attention from the discipline. This panel discussion brings together leading thinkers in human and physical Geography whose work focuses on socio-geological relations in order to examine the challenges the concept of the Anthropocene presents to social, political and cultural geographers and conversely what challenges they might present to it in turn?
Does the Anthropocene require a rethink of Geography’s fundamental ontological and epistemological categories and create the possibility for productive new engagements between human and physical geography, the social and earth sciences? Can it provide a useful framework for thinking about planetary geographies in a way that avoids the ideologically over-determination and anthropocentric bias of ‘globalization’ and open new avenues for understanding the nature, extent and significance of socio-ecological entanglements in light of climate change? Or rather does it simply reproduce familiar narratives about the danger of human attempts to dominate nature whilst invoking a perversely deterministic global history that diverts critical attention from the specific processes of social and natural exploitation that contribute to the uneven geographies of climate change. Is the Anthropocene a supremely depoliticising meta-abstraction that obscures the sites where precisely targeted social, political and environmental interventions might take place or can it widen the understanding of what can be considered political whilst providing a powerful idea around which a variety of struggles can find common cause? This session hopes to explore how geographic thought might negotiate these questions and assess how future thinking on the Anthropocene might develop