Structures of Deep Time in the Anthropocene

Emanuele Serrelli presents:

2016, Jun 10 (h.16-19) – 6th Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference, University of Bergamo, Italy: Structures of deep time in the Anthropocene. With Elena Bougleux organizer of the session “Diffracting ethnography in the anthropocene”. Conference talk. [Ac]

Talk abstract “Structures of deep time in the Anthropocene”

Anthropocene puts incommensurable time scales in contact with each other, to show the relevance of what humanity has been realizing in historical times, and to emphasize the impact of our everyday behaviours and choices. To enable cross-referencing of geologic formations and events from different places on the planet, geologists have subdivided the Earth’s history in periods and eras. Among the concluded periods, the shortest one, Neogene, lasted for more than 20 million years, while the longest periods amounts to over 200 million years. The enormity of these time intervals is hard to imagine, yet necessary to capture and define all the phenomena that are meaningful for the history of such a huge and old system as the Earth.

A different logic – the logic of “deep time” and “macroevolution” – is necessary to reflect on a time scale where the history of not only species, but whole Families and Groups, is nothing but the blink of an eye. The current period, Holocene, has started only 11.700 thousand years ago, at the end of the last glacial Age, but a serious scientific proposal was advanced to consider that a different period, the Anthropocene, has already taken over from the Holocene. What are the dilemmas, paradoxes, challenges, and implications of this mental operation, that implies the contaction of temporal scales, and the comparison of everyday life time with deep evolutionary time?

Session abstract “Diffracting ethnography in the anthropocene”

cropped-logo-erq-conf-2016-copyThe theoretical framework of Anthropocene has quickly spread across several disciplinary areas, from Anthropology to History, from Ecology to Economics, as a critical tool for the investigation of the contemporary, in the attempt to provide a multidisciplinary context where to confront and compare different sensitivities and competences on the issues of environment, shared responsibility, public interest and common visions about the future.

The concept of Anthropocene provides a sort of metascenario where a multiplicity of separated critical aspects of the contemporary crisis acquire common and mutually depending meanings: climate refugees, food insecurity, energetic crisis, restrictions to water accesses. These are all independent signs converging to assemble a severe criticism of the dominating paradigm of development, based on markets and profits, that has been imposed as a unique model and that has largely contributed to generate all the mentioned criticalities.

The discourse on Anthropocene tries to promote the enhancement of a global awareness of shared belonging, emphasizing the invisible and indirect connections between human actions and their environmental consequences, connecting large and micro scales, superposing individual causes and global effects. The pluri-semantic figurations of diffraction and transversality are powerful metaphors borrowed from disciplines such as philosophy and natural sciences that describe at best the new network of meanings, both theoretical and material ones, needed to grasp all these mutual dependencies.

The panel seeks to discuss this framework characterized by instabilities with the support of ethnographic description and case studies discussion, focussing in particular on:

  • the mutual relations between small scale (human) actions and large scale (environmental) effects, many of which still need to be accurately understood, in their multidisciplinary dimension
  • the new social unbalances emerging as consequences of the environmental exploitation, worsening existing gaps and unbalances among genders, classes, communities; in particular documenting poor housing, decreasing education, worsening of health conditions
  • new environmental sensitivities originated with the crisis and generated by the inadequate managing of resources, producing new patterns of engagement and collective behaviours; in particular documenting social movements, their environmental commitment, their strategies of aggregation and claim

Session program “Diffracting ethnography in the anthropocene”

Convenor: Elena Bougleux (Università di Bergamo)

Friday, June 10th 16.00-19.00 — Room 1P

  • Sara Baranzoni, Simone Belli, Daniel Ross & Paolo Vignola (Yachai Tech): Ethnography of controversies of our time. Anthropocene, climate change and sustainable development
  • Nadia Breda (Università di Firenze): Intimate visions of water in the anthroposophical contemporary philosophy and practices
  • Ghiringhelli Barbara (Libera Università IULM di Milano): Some questions about multi-species ethnography
  • Enrico Micheli (Università di Bergamo): Complex problem solving. Patterns of education in the anthropocene
  • Emanuele Serrelli (Università di Milano Bicocca): Structures of deep time in the anthropocene