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After 400 ppm: Science, Politics, and Social Natures in the Anthropocene - A Workshop for Junior Scholars, Open to the public

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Thursday, 27 March 2014,  5:30 PM

March 27, 2014. 5:30 pm. Keynote Address: Sarah Whatmore, Oxford University

March 28, 2014.  9:00 am - 5:00 pm.  Workshop Sessions.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations now hover around 400 parts per million, a threshold that many scientists and environmentalists consider a path towards the catastrophic. At the same time, scholars in the social and natural sciences as well as the humanities are increasingly engaging with the notion that the planet has entered a new geological period, the Anthropocene, in which the Earth is fundamentally influenced by human activity on an unprecedented scale. As many critical observers have noted, conceptualizing the Anthropocene in terms of ‘the human species’ acquiring the capacity to act as a geological agent obscures difficult questions about the wildly divergent capacities among humans for both impacting the planet and adapting to socioecological disruptions of the sort now becoming increasingly commonplace (c.f. Chakrabarty 2009, Nixon 2011). This and other concerns underscore the importance of critical engagement with emerging narratives of the Anthropocene, particularly at the present moment as this still unstable discursive formation becomes an influential frame through which to understand and respond to a suite of interconnected social, ecological, and economic crises unfolding across the planet.

A recurrent concern throughout scholarly and popular discussions of the Anthropocene is science’s role in framing the crisis as well as finding its solutions. On the one hand, apocalyptic scenarios and questions about the human species’ chances for survival frequently accompany framings of science and technological expertise as the best, if indeed not the only, hope for responding effectively to cataclysmic threats (c.f. Launder and Thompson 2008). On the other hand, some philosophers and critical theorists argue that scientists’ appeals to truths ‘outside’ the reach of social or political forces ultimately amount to a refusal to take responsibility for the central role played by science in expanding humanity’s capacity to fundamentally transform the planet. From this perspective, science’s power to ameliorate the negative impacts of socioecological crises depends largely on abandoning “its…belief in detached objectivity [... and learning to] become reflexive about its own maintenance of the economic inequalities which make it possible” (Saldhana 2013). From both perspectives, however, it is clear that there can be no apolitical reckoning with science in the Anthropocene, leaving many scholars and thinkers to begin re-framing what constitutes politics and re-imagining what politics can do (Stengers 2005, Latour 2004, Whatmore 2002).

This workshop brings together early career academics and advanced graduate students whose research engages critically with the ways in which this profound transformation of the planet and its support systems also entails shifts in our understandings and practices of science and politics.  For questions contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Both events are open to the public. No Registration is required. Complete information is available here.

Sponsored by: The Departments of Geography and of Women’s and Gender Studies, the Graduate Geographers Project, and The Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers University


Location Ruth Dill Johnson Crockett Building, 162 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick, NJ
Contact Sean Tanner: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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