Image from Marina Zurkow, Slurb (2009)
Coined by Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen at the inception of the 21st Century, the concept of the Anthropocene postulates a new geological epoch defined by overwhelming human influence upon the earth beginning with the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century. The concept has since been picked up and expanded by other scientists, chiefly but not exclusively geologists and planetary ecologists. More recently the Anthropocene has caught the imagination of humanists, artists, and social scientists for whom it has provided a powerful framework through which to account for and depict the impact of climate change in a variety of media forms and practices.
In many ways, however, the Anthropocene is a strikingly resonant iteration of the problematic forcefully articulated in Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto,” which sees the human, nonhuman, culture, and nature as inextricably entangled, and warns that the consequences of attempts to dominate human and nonhuman nature can be at once devastatingly successful and productively perverse. Indeed, the concept of the Anthropocene has arguably been implicit in feminism, critical theory, and queer theory for decades, a genealogy that is largely ignored, or worse, erased, by the masculine authority of science.
By the same token, while feminists have long argued that humans are dominating and destroying the earth, turning it into standing reserve, capital, or resource to devastating ends, it is also the case that this recent articulation of the Anthropocene, even as it affirms those arguments in many ways, deprives feminism of some of the normative ground upon which such indictments are based. This tension has been anticipated in ecofeminism and feminist science studies, but now, in the 21st century, the articulation of a post-natural condition in the form of a new geological age demands rigorous and sustained attention to global, ahuman forces of ecological change as well as to local spaces of vulnerability and resistance.
To this end, C21’s conference on Anthropocene Feminism will consider the ways in which feminism has long been concerned with the Anthropocene, and what current interest in the Anthropocene might mean for feminism, in its evolving histories, theories, and practices. More to the point, the conference seeks to highlight both why we need an Anthropocene feminism and why thinking the Anthropocene must come from feminism. We begin with two sets of questions.
First, how has feminism anticipated the concept of the Anthropocene, and what might it yet have to offer: how can feminism help us to historicize, challenge, or refine the concept of the Anthropocene? What do new materialist feminism or ecofeminism (to name just two) add to (or detract from) current humanistic understandings of the Anthropocene? What does feminism have to say to the claim that humans now act as a geological force in ways that are independent of or indifferent to social, cultural, or political will or intent?
Second, and equally important, is there (or should there be) an Anthropocene feminism? Put differently, does the claim that we have entered a new epoch in which humans are a major geological force on the planet call for a reconceptualization of feminism? Does feminism require a new formulation specific to the age of the Anthropocene, a new historical or period designation? How should feminism in an Anthropogenic age take up an altered relation to—an increased attention to or concern for—the nonhuman world?
We seek proposals for critical, historical, and theoretical papers or creative presentations that address the questions posed by the concept of “Anthropocene feminism.” We encourage participants to investigate and analyze the anticipation of this concept in feminism and other related theoretical paradigms and, in turn, to speculate upon its implications. We are also interested in work that pays attention to the place of the nonhuman in feminist theory and practice, in order to offer some suggestions about how the humanities, arts, and social sciences might best treat the Anthropocene as we move forward in the 21st century.
Topics we imagine proposals pursuing include but are not limited to:
- feminist genealogies of the Anthropocene
- queer nature, queer ecologies, queer Anthropocene
- new materialism
- quantum entanglements and agential realism
- feminism and dark ecologies
- environmental racism and transnational feminist approaches
- the Anthropocene and the commons
- feminist science and science studies in the Anthropocene
- Anthropocene feminism after capitalism
- feminist reflections on environmental ethics and aesthetics in the Anthropocene
- cyborg futures, geo-engineering, speculative ecologies
- feminism after the non-human turn
- feminist epistemologies
- feminism and climate, geo- and environmental sciences
- Anthropocene utopianism/dystopianism and their antecedents
We invite contributions from theorists and practitioners of humanities, arts, and the social and natural sciences, or any others interested in the relation between feminism and the Anthropocene.
Please send your abstract (up to 250 words) and a brief (1-page) CV by Friday, December 6 to Richard Grusin, Director, Center for 21st Century Studies, firstname.lastname@example.org.