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2013, Thu, Jan 10

Is the Anthropocene… Cosmology?

John Tresch and Jan Zalasiewicz

Dialogue between John Tresch (Department of History and Sociology of Science at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia) and Jan Zalasiewicz (Department of Geology at University of Leicester, Leicester). Introduction: Cecelia Watson (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin)


Cosmologies explain how the world was created, what order keeps it intact, and how it will all come to an end. The Anthropocene, earth scientists argue, is the age when we create the earth. Does the idea of the Anthropocene blur the boundaries between “facts” and “fiction” within our modern routines of scientific explanation? With what “cosmic” practices and materials do we maintain the order of our world? To what extent does the Anthropocene influence our beliefs, values and principles? Is it a cult of planetary elites, a naturalization of religion, or a mythology of the anthropos?



John Tresch (Philadelphia) is an associate professor in the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania, where his research focuses on the cultural history of science and technology in Europe and the U.S. from 1750 to the present. He recently published his first book, "The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon" (2012).


Cecelia Watson (Berlin) is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin, and since February she has also been working with the team planningthe Anthropocene program at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Her research focuses on the role of subjectivity in the formation of scientific knowledge and on the relationship between visual arts and sciences.


Jan Zalasiewicz (Leicester) is a senior lecturer in geology at the university of Leicester, UK, and member of the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society, London,a body of scientists which has been notably involved in analyzing the Anthropocene phenomenon. He teaches various aspects of geology and earth history and is a researcher into fossil ecosystems and environments across over half a billion years of geological time.



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