In his Anthropocene Lecture, John McNeill, a member of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Union of the Geological Sciences, reflects upon the role of historians in the work of the AWG and the implications for historians of the debates surrounding the Anthropocene. Does the Anthropocene require historians to reconsider their habits with respect to periodization, evidence, units of analysis, and subject matter?
The Anthropocene—the geological epoch of humanity—has established itself as a key concept within a wider scientific and social discourse. In the midst of the dramatic and destabilizing changes to the basic conditions for life on our planet wrought by it, new potentials for human action upon the Earth are to be explored asking: What forms of cooperation can arise from the new awareness of the human role in the increasing interlacing of nature and technology?
In the framework of the Anthropocene Lecture series, a number of prominent speakers accentuating the Anthropocene debate are being invited to respond to a topic that will be a central challenge for many generations to come. With McKenzie Wark, Christian Schwägerl, Helmuth Trischler, Julia Adeney Thomas, Amanda Machin, John McNeill, and many more. The lectures take place at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the HKW, and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam.