Tag Archives: ethnography

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? Continue reading Structures of Deep Time in the Anthropocene

Cultural Diversity

07---ecosphera-volumi-copertine-insieme1The reflection on human cultures delivers more and more a critical and complex vision that makes it difficult to imagine ourselves counting, describe or analytically decompose cultures. Bypassing questions like “what is a culture”, “which and how many cultures are there”, and “how important is each culture”, anthropology and ethnography give scientific form to the comparative impetus that puts diversities – the many colors of a caleidoscope – in relation and dialogue. This is an open enterprise that drops any aim of completeness and systematicity, in favor of critical reflection on what does it mean to be human and to inhabit the Earth together. By the way, diversity can be studied and understood from different points of view, e.g. borrowing methods and concepts from evolutionary biology in order to reconstruct the world tree of common descent of cultures, with migrations and diasporas, where similarities (inherited or convergent) and differences among peoples got channeled. Meanwhile, however, in face of the insufficiency of analysis, the disappearance of cultural varieties is more and more evident. What’s worst, this happens in parallel to growing awareness of their importance for the survival of our species. Locating, measuring, and contrasting the loss of cultural diversity is a challenge which, for example, the UN have tried to address through the definition of “intangible cultural heritage”. Biocultural diversity, a young and promising field, promotes an integrated approach to the conservation of diversity, comprising cultural and biological aspects.

Serrelli E (2010). L’evoluzione delle culture: come fermare l’estinzione. In Eldredge N, Pievani T, eds., Ecosphera. Il Futuro della Terra vol. 1. Torino: UTET-DeAgostini, pp. 320-333. ISBN 978-88-02-08379-7 [http://hdl.handle.net/10281/9928]

Biocultural Diversity

07---ecosphera-volumi-copertine-insieme1Biodiversity shapes cultural diversity. Culture shapes the environment. But according to the biocultural paradigm of the “inextricable link”, such bidirectional co-determination in fact prevents the analytical distinction of the two. We must, indeed, talk about a unified type of diversity: biocultural diversity. The field aims to conserve, defend rights of indigenous people, and obtain political decisions that respect them. A field explicitly “militant”, giving up the conventional academic neutrality to embrace strong ethical commitments concerning human rights, seen in intimate connection with the responsibilities about the natural and cultural heritage of humanity.

Serrelli E (2010). Diversità bioculturale. In Eldredge N, Pievani T, eds., Ecosphera. Il Futuro della Terra Atlante vol. 1 (A-L), Torino: UTET-DeAgostini, pp. 143-148. Reprinted in Aggiornamento enciclopedico 2011, Torino: UTET-DeAgostini. ISBN 978-88-02-08383-4 [http://hdl.handle.net/10281/16655]