Feb 10-11, 2022
Understanding Anthropogenic Change
- Dept. III
Human civilizations developed in a time of relative environmental and climate stability. Whereas Holocene conditions have made us what we are and radically influenced our view of how the world functions, the discourse about the Anthropocene, climate change, and no-analog futures have in recent years made clear that the stability of Holocene conditions might have been just an impression—although one that heavily influences how we act and think, imposing serious path-dependencies in both respects.
Starting from these premises, our workshop aims to discuss and historicize the ways in which change in Earth system conditions has been described, conceptualized, and apprehended in a broadly conceived Anthropocene research as a specifically “anthropogenic” change. The idea is that an open, interdisciplinary discussion may contribute to achieving two main objectives: first, capturing the epistemic and conceptual ways in which a new kind of change came to exist; and second, mapping the possibilities of a historical study of anthropogenic change, even prior to its realization and conceptualization.
As to the former aspect, the workshop aims at inquiring into the nature or specific character of anthropogenic change. Does the vocabulary of anthropogenic change entail seeing the human and the natural separately as criticism may hold? Or, quite the contrary, does it rather refer to a change which is neither exclusively in human societies nor in nature as we know it but, rather, a change in the condition of one single entity, unit, or system encompassing both human societies and the environment? The workshop hopes to explore the nature of such changes, the challenges we face in their study, and the potential emergence of new kinds of expertise or new knowledge formations attuned to studying anthropogenic changes. This leads directly to the latter aspect, addressing the question of historical knowledge. The emergence of the notion of “anthropogenic change” demands conceptual histories of the methods we use to understand it and calls for studies of such changes before their importance was realized. How far can we go with historicizing anthropogenic changes? Does their historical study entail a renewal of historical knowledge in the first place? Do we need new methodologies that match the shifting epistemic and ontological conventions implied by anthropogenic change?
About the Organizers
Wilko Graf von Hardenberg is a senior research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany, where he coordinates the working group Art of Judgement. His research looks at how nature has been perceived, explained, and managed in late modern Europe and how this has had repercussions on the global scale. At the core of his work lies the issue of how political power, scientific concepts, and material practices interact in modern history, with interests ranging from the history of nature conservation to that of the concept of sea level. He is the author of A Monastery for the Ibex: Conservation, State, and Conflict on the Gran Paradiso, 1919-1949 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021) and co-editor of The Nature State: Rethinking the History of Conservation (Routledge, 2017). His work has recently been published in such venues as Environment and Planning E, Journal of Historical Geography, Centaurus, and Journal of the History of Biology.
Zoltán Boldizsár Simon is research fellow at Bielefeld University. He has been an assistant professor at Leiden University, and currently, he's a visiting fellow at MPIGW. He has written extensively both on historical theory and the challenges posed by current ecological and technological prospects. His work can be read in journals ranging from History and Theory and The Anthropocene Review to the European Journal of Social Theory and History of the Human Sciences. He is the author of History in Times of Unprecedented Change: A Theory for the 21st Century (Bloomsbury, 2019) and The Epochal Event: Transformations in the Entangled Human, Technological, and Natural Worlds (Palgrave, 2020).
Contact and Registration
To register, please contact Wilko Graf von Hardenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org).