What Does it Mean to do Anthropology in the Anthropocene? Elizabeth Reddy

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What Does it Mean to do Anthropology in the Anthropocene? Elizabeth Reddy The Earth in Theory

Last month I had the pleasure of attending a conference organized by graduate students at McGill University. There we (graduate students and established scholars alike) experimented with the power of attention to the earth itself and to earth-oriented terminology. We found that this orientation opened spaces for us to talk about what it means to live in the framework of history or emotion, within shared projects, with trauma or celebrity.

We thought particularly about the material world and histories, and what we could and couldn’t– and maybe even shouldn’t– express. We read Hugh Raffles’s recent work on rocks. Maria Starzmann, Peter Skafish, and Kregg Heatherington reflected on geology and geological metaphors in their work, and a fabulous keynote from Valerie Olson explored systems thinking about nature and knowledge production.

Though they took on wildly divergent subjects, our projects and ideas hung together. The earth is, after all, a topic we’ve taken to thinking of in terms of its systems that integrate forces, materials, technologies, ideas, lives, and analytic scales.

Many of us– from archeologists to affective theorists– were able to take in a talk by Latour on his experimental inquiry into modes of existence. It’s worth noting that he’s talking about the Anthropocene these days, too.


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