Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I've been reading Donna Haraway's Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin.  This was published in 2015 in Environmental Humanities, vol. 6,  pp. 159-165

This is how it begins:

"There is no question that anthropogenic processes have had planetary effects, in inter/intraaction with other processes and species, for as long as our species can be identified (a few tens of thousand years); and agriculture has been huge (a few thousand years).  Of course, from the start the greatest planetary terraformers (and reformers) of all have been and still are bacteria and their kin, also in inter/intra-action of myriad kinds (including with people and their practices, technological and otherwise).  The spread of seed-dispersing plants millions of years before human agriculture was a planet-changing development, and so were many other revolutionary evolutionary ecological developmental historical events.  

People joined the bumptious fray early and dynamically, even before they/we were critters who were later named Homo sapiens.  But I think the issues about naming relevant to the Anthropocene, Plantationocene, or Capitalocene have to do with scale, rate/speed, synchronicity, and complexity.  The constant question when considering systemic phenomena has to be, when do changes in degree become changes in kind, and what are the effects of bioculturally, biotechnically, biopolitically, historically situated people (not Man) relative to, and combined with, the effects of other species assemblages and other biotic/abiotic forces?  No species, not even our own arrogant one pretending to be good individuals in so-called modern Western scripts, acts alone; assemblages of organic species and of abiotic actors make history, the evolutionary kind and the other kinds too. ..."

She remains a challenging writer, but the essay has some fine lines and phrases in it: "cheap nature is at an end"  "feral biologies"  "make kin not babies"

At the end of the passage I quoted, Haraway asks: "Is there an inflection point of consequence that changes the name of the “game” of life on earth for everybody and everything?"  In response, she quotes Anna Tsing who suggests that the inflection point between the Holocene and the Anthropocene might be the wiping out of most of the refugia [1] from which diverse species assemblages (with or without people) can be reconstituted.  Haraway says that "Anna Tsing [2] argues that the Holocene was the long period when refugia, places of refuge, still existed, even abounded, to sustain reworlding in rich cultural and biological diversity" and argues that the Anthropocene is more a boundary event than an epoch (like the K-Pg boundary between the Cretaceous and the Paleogene).  She adds that the Anthropocene marks severe discontinuities and what comes after will not be like what came before, but our job is to make the Anthropocene as short/thin as possible and to cultivate with each other in every way imaginable epochs to come that can replenish refuge.  She then explores a new name for all this, such as Chthulucene which may or not catch on [3].

I wonder if making kin not babies will.


[1] This is Merriam Webster: an area of relatively unaltered climate that is inhabited by plants and animals during a period of continental climatic change (such as a glaciation) and remains as a center of relict forms from which a new dispersion and speciation may take place after climatic readjustment

[2] Tsing, Anna. “Feral Biologies.” Paper for Anthropological Visions of Sustainable Futures, University College London, February 2015

[3] It is not yet in Merriam Webster.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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