2013, Sat, Jan 12

Is the Anthropocene… A Doomsday Device?

Cary Wolfe and Claire Colebrook

Dialogue between Cary Wolfe (Department of English at Rice University, Houston) and Claire Colebrook (Department of English at Penn State University, University Park ). Introduction: Cecelia Watson (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin)


Many of the planetary changes argued as constituting proof for the earth’s transition from the Holocene to the Anthropocene are phenomena that, if left unchecked, could irreversibly lead to a future in which the planet can no longer sustain human life. From this perspective, the Anthropocene concept could be seen as an eschatological narrative, a doomsday device ticking down to an apocalyptic end. But even if the changes set into motion by human activity were to be arrested, the philosophical premise of the Anthropocene could nevertheless spell the end of the categories “human,” “human history,” and “humanism” altogether.



Claire Colebrook (University Park, PA) is professor of English at Penn State University. Her areas of specialization are contemporary literature, visual culture, and theory and cultural studies. She has written articles on poetry, literary theory, queer theory, and contemporary culture. She is the editor of the book "Extinction" published in 2012 as well as co-editor of the Series "Critical Climate Change" and member of the advisory board of the Institute for Critical Climate Change.


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 planning the 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.


Cary Wolfe (Houston) is Dunlevie Professor of English and founding director of the Center for Critical and Cultural Theory at Rice university. He is author of "WhatIs Posthumanism?" (2010), a book which weaves together principal concerns of his work: animal studies, system theory, pragmatism, andpoststructuralism. It is part of the series "Post-humanities" for which he serves as founding editor at the University of Minnesota Press.


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