23 February 2013

Project: The Anthropocene Project, 10 January 2013 - 31 December 2014, Berlin (Part II)

To mark the initiation of the Anthropocene Project (see the previous post on this blog), the the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin staged a four-day symposium for lectures and dialogues between key thinkers in a variety of fields including philosophy, anthropology, sociology, architecture along with many others. Clustering around five thematic "islands" - "Perspectives", "Times", "Gardens", "Oikos" and "TechnĂ©" - the transdisciplinary dialogues and lectures staged (some of which have have been audio or video recorded for posterity) interrogate the concept of the anthropocene.
A preoccupation with identifying the anthropocene (is the anthropocene legal?, beautiful?, a necessity?, etc.) tends to muffle more open-ended discussion in some of these conversations. Nonetheless, the meeting of minds offered by Claire Colebrook and Cary Wolfe on the subject of "Is the Anthropocene...A Doomsday Device?" manages to navigate its potential nihilism with both playfulness and consideration. The keynotes of Elizabeth Povinelli ("Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism") and John Tresch ("Cosmograms, or How to Do Things with Words") offer sometimes beautiful narratives and ruminations.
Dipesh Chakrabarty's bold critique of the anthropocene itself pits the question of and about the anthropocene in challenging detail. Launching his keynote, "History on an Expanded Canvas: The Anthropocene's Invitation", with the delaration that he must "decline the invitation of anthropocene", Chakrabarty underscores the gratuitous magnitude of anthropocene as a conceptual term, while still taking up the narrower (and more graspable) hypotheses of climate change and anthropocenic global warming.

"It has to be one of the profoundest ironies of our modern history that increasing use of such energy should have now transformed our collective image in our own eyes from that of an autonomous, if not sovereign, purposeful agency - from the level of the individual to the level of groups - to that of a force which is defined as the sheer capacity to produce pull or push on an object by interacting [with] it merely as another object."
Dipesh Chakrabaty

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