Make kin, not babies
January 7, 2017 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Call it the Anthropocene, the MisAnthropocene (PDF), the Capitalcene, a Raven's Trick, a Charismatic Mega-Category, or the Chthulucene: Anthropologists are engaging with the new Epoch.

For example, from the links above the fold:
Donna Haraway: Right now, the earth is full of refugees, human and not, without refuge.
Andrew Whitehouse: Songbirds and Anxious Semiotics.
Smudge Studio: ippo ippo ippo
Joshua Reno: terracentrism
Genese Marie Sodikoff: Viral Chatter
Nicholas Kawa: Shit
Alex Golub: Leviathans
Bruno Latour: “Connected” does not mean “holistic”, any more than “animated” means “having a soul”. (PDF)
Leslie Head: Lessons from the Neolithic
posted by Rumple (3 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Haraway annoys me.

However, John Michael Greer's response, repurposing and running with the "Cthulhuscene" (spelling variation his) is worth reading and adding to this list:
She had specific reasons for the proposal, and I’d encourage my readers to see what she had to say about those, but I have somewhat different reasons for adopting the term. H.P. Lovecraft, who invented the squid-faced, dragon-winged, monster-clawed devil-god Cthulhu for one of his best stories, used that being and the other tentacled horrors of his imaginary pantheon to represent a concept as alien to the conventional thought of industrial society as the Great Old Ones themselves. The term Lovecraft used for that concept was “indifferentism”—the recognition that the universe is utterly indifferent to human beings, not sympathetic, not hostile, not anything, and that it’s really rather silly of us, all things considered, to expect it to conform to our wishes, expectations, or sense of entitlement.

Does this seem embarrassingly obvious? The irony, and it’s a rich one, is that most people nowadays who insist that the universe is indifferent to humanity turn around and make claims about the future that presuppose exactly the opposite. I’ve long since lost track of the number of committed atheists I’ve met, for example, who readily agreed that the universe is indifferent to our desires, but then insisted there has to be some other energy resource out there at least as cheap, concentrated, and abundant as the ones we’re currently using up. That claim only makes sense if you assume that the supplies of matter and energy in the cosmos have somehow been arranged for our benefit; otherwise, no, there doesn’t have to be any other resource out there. We could simply use up what we’ve got, and then have to get by without concentrated energy sources for the rest of the time our species happens to exist.
It's a useful term, in this sense, though unlikely to ever take off for obvious reasons.
posted by byanyothername at 6:39 PM on January 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

"indifferentism"? I was taught the works of authors such as Stephen Crane comprised Naturalism that had its roots in expressions from the likes of Galileo: Nature is relentless and unchangeable, and it is indifferent as to whether its hidden reasons and actions are understandable to man or not.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 6:55 PM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Alex Golub: Leviathans
The curse of bigness is not merely that leviathans are too successful, not just that they turn exploitation into overexploitation. Another source of their power is their ability to insulate individual humans from moral responsibility. As Robert Jackall (1988) points out, in corporations decisions are pushed up but responsibility is pushed down. Their mistakes—the oil spills, the malfunctions, the violence—are never the leviathan’s error... responsibility falls in the interstices between people.

[L]eviathans work through externality, pushing the entropy they create outside of themselves, their balance books, and their commitment to transparency and sustainability. Within, there is order. Without is somebody else’s problem. Unintended consequences, structural effects, collective action problems: these are how the world ends with dragons. So we build larger and larger leviathans to enclose what was once disavowed. The United Nations. Global emissions standards. The International Council on Mining and Metals. World banks and courts. The Subcommission of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which officially named the Anthropocene itself. Our attempts at smallness continue too: zones Occupied to create a space where size does not crush possibility, truth revealed by Anonymous networks that create scaled effects without producing a corporate body. Even corruption—for what else is corruption but an affront to routinized bigness?—has the potential to disrupt...

Taming our bigness, harnessing our leviathans, imagining forms of empowering smallness: these are the central challenges of the Anthropocene. Connecting individual responsibility to structural injustice; building an enduring empathy for people affected by slow-motion disasters, not just photogenic, cataclysmic ones; describing complexity clearly; explaining indeterminacy rather than gesturing at its beautiful inscrutability: these are the tasks for which our lexicon must be deployed. In the future, we will sport with leviathans.
Prolepsis: "Understanding how people understand the present from the point of view of what we'll say about it in the future."

Prigogine: "I believe that what we do today depends on our image of the future, rather than the future depending on what we do today."
posted by kliuless at 12:21 AM on January 8, 2017

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