“Climate Justice and the Anthropos of the Anthropocene”
Abstract: This lecture discusses the impact of the science of climate change on received traditions of humanist thought. It focuses in particular on how we think of globalization and intra-human justice in an age when humans act like a geophysical force on the planet, raising questions of scale and agency never encountered before in the human sciences.
In referring to the “anthropocene,” Chakrabarty takes up ecologist Eugene Stoermer’s term, popularized by Nobel Prize winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, for techno-humanity’s own geological era. “Anthropocene” refers to the notion that, particularly since the industrial revolution, “we” have altered the biosphere to such an extent that the previous geological era, the holocene, has come to an end and a new geo-climatic period begun. It has huge implications for the way we understand the nature/culture and ecology/economy relationships, among other notions used to map our ethical, political, technological, and aesthetic connections to the nonhuman environment.
Chakrabarty is Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor, Department of History and the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago. He is currently at work on a book entitled The Climate of History: Four Theses. This project concerns he implications of the science of climate change for historical and political thinking (see his essay in Critical Inquiry, Winter 2009, for a preview). Chakrabarty’s research interests and accomplishments are too numerous to list here (see http://history.uchicago.edu/faculty/chakrabarty.shtml).