Anthropocene Lecture: Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
Modern infrastructures have shaped disturbance-based ecologies that force all living beings to consistently find new ways to survive. The anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing explores the possibilities of life in capitalist ruins.
“What if the Anthropocene is patchy—and more than human?” asks Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing as a guiding question for her new collaborative project entitled Feral Atlas. Her lecture reflects upon this new project that investigates how natural scientists, humanists, and artists use field-based curiosities to tell stories that carefully attend to how humans and nonhumans make worlds together at every scale. Tracing the recent spreading of the parasitic water mold Phytophthora from Germany to the Western United States, where it kills off natural woodlands, shows that even when Anthropocene phenomena are planetary in extent, they need to be understood in relation to the patchy occurrences of infrastructures from industrial nursery sheds to the floating plantations in cargo containers.
Feral Atlas explores how digital media could help energize readers and listeners rather than paralyzing them, even if this means offering up terrible accounts. Connecting the scale of hyperobjects such as climate change to the human scales of ecological patches—landscapes, species, local meshworks—compels us to act instead of leaving us feeling overwhelmed.
Following her lecture, she discusses these ideas with curator Bergit Arends, reflecting on the potentialities of transdisciplinary knowledge production in discerning the Anthropocene’s relationship to representation and unpacking the larger sociopolitical consequences in researching the Anthropocene.
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is also Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark and Director of Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA), a long-term partnering project of the Anthropocene Curriculum. She is author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015; German edition, Matthes & Seitz Berlin 2018) and Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (2005). She is co-editor of the book Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene (2017).
Bergit Arends is Curator and Researcher at the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London and at the Research & Public History Institute of the Science Museum Group. Her PhD thesis of 2017 is titled “Contemporary art, archives and environmental change in the age of the Anthropocene”. She curates the Kunst/Natur program at the Natural History Museum, Berlin (2016–18), and was Curator of Contemporary Art at the Natural History Museum, London (2005–13). She studied Curating at the Royal College of Art, London. In her research, she explores the interferences of the arts and the sciences, focusing on environmental humanities, fine arts, and curating.
The Anthropocene Lectures series is a platform for inviting a number of prominent speakers, accentuating the debate on the Anthropocene.
The Anthropocene Lectures are being developed in cooperation with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.