“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, May 17, 2013

History and Politics of the Anthropocene: Dipesh Chakrabarty

Dipesh welcomes all of us. What a fantastic chap he really is. 
What is fascinating about climate change is how different disciplines have to scale the problem up or down and do different things with their tools. 
While David Archer will talk about 100 000 year scale, some will talk about global warming archive
Then economists speak of decades until the end of the century
Politicians will speak of electoral cycles
Scalar aspect of the problem: Tim Morton’s expression of feeling “outscaled”
I represent a discipline that is not particularly useful, history (!), there are some who are even less useful (literature) (!). (Of course Dipesh doesn’t agree.)
Sahlins: “just look at U Chicago. We don’t do anything that is fashionable or useful. 
Climatologists who think in terms of millions of years. They don’t obviously lend themselves to policy decisions. 
David Archer: is it possible for human beings to care beyond three generations?
Can you care for humans who come thousands of years after us? Or is it a constraint of human nature? Clearly these are questions that come up in thinking about global warming in general. 
Questions in one discipline can open up questions in another discipline. Questions of care or persuasion; we tend to trust anecdotes, not science. 
Lovelock: anecdotalism as a researchable question. 
The problem creates grounds for conversation within the disciplines. 
Some disciplines come to the problem thinking “here is another challenge to prove the efficacy of pre-existing tools”
Others come to it with a sense that “My discipline is now inadequate for this”
Archer: working on global warming is humbling
Triumphalism of geoengineering
we make different beasts out of it
Anthropocene: the term. As a student of human history, the problem is whenever we think of what we could do about climate change as a problem, to mitigate (or prevent, though now impossible), we think through different figures of sovereignty: purposive entities who can project out of their own being a kind of action oriented image of themselves, working with a sense of purpose
Whereas the very idea of being a geophysical force changes the metaphor. Force. How a theological category became a secular category in Newton
need to move away << sovereignty
humans now can think of themselves as a huge object exerting forces on other objects
most of human history that I do (last 500 years) is seen as the struggle for freedom and liberty. 
But that is thinking through sovereignty. 
To think as geophysical force is to entirely change the metaphor

No comments: