Alternatives to the Anthropocene: CFP for special issue in Radical History Review

See the full Call for Papers here; a blurb is posted below.

Key deadlines: June 1 for abstracts, November for full papers.

A Call for Proposals from the Radical History Review

Issue number 145
Abstract Deadline:
 June 1, 2021
Co-Edited by Ashley Dawson and A. Naomi Paik

This issue seeks submissions that examine the voices of those who fought against the development of the Anthropocene, the geological age in which human activity has dominated the climate and environment. By “alternatives to the Anthropocene,” we invite discussion of at least three connected topics: the Anthropocene as a technocratic, scientific designation of our current epoch; the limits of this approach to periodizing the last 500 years; and the social movements that have challenged the extractive capitalism essential to this epoch. The issue thus presumes that the Anthropocene resulted not simply from world-changing technological innovations like the steam engine. Rather, it resulted from multiple political defeats that consolidated capitalist and colonialist modernity. We invite contributions that highlight struggles for environmental, social, and technological alternatives to the forces that produced the Anthropocene. Essays should examine these histories of resistance that might construct fruitful genealogies for the present environmental crisis and produce a more open and political reading of environmental history.

We seek submissions that offer new insights into what Joan Martinez Alier and Ramachandra Guha call “the environmentalism of the poor,” which has resisted the colonial, capitalist histories that have wrought epochal environmental destruction. How would environmental history transform if we centered the environmentalism of the poor? What are the cultural and political expressions of such environmentalisms in diverse historical and geographic circumstances? What continuities link movements across time and space?  We welcome contributions on any time period. We particularly seek work that contests dominant readings of the Anthropocene as a post-1800 phenomenon and centers environmental history that examines the beginning of the era of European colonial expansion.

Possible topics include:

  • Modes of resistance of diverse “environmentalisms of the poor”
  • Transnational political solidarities constellated around resistance to the Anthropocene
  • Explorations of existing historiographic schools that excavate overlooked popular environmentalisms, like Subaltern Studies
  • Alternative modes of production to colonial/capitalist modernity, including traditions of Indigenous peoples and people of African descent
  • Environmental impacts of slavery and racial capitalism, including environmental engagements of the Black radical tradition
  • Alternative theories to the “Anthropocene” grounded in resistance movements, like “Plantationocene.”
  • Critiques of the scholarly formulation of the Anthropocene, like interventions from Black feminist critiques of geology or Indigenous critiques of the Anthropocene’s temporality
  • Analysis of alternatives to imperialist movements around nature like “conservation” and “preservation”
  • Alternative genealogies for contemporary resistance movements like Blockadia and the Green New Deal

We encourage contributions from historically under-represented groups. Procedures for submission of articles: By June 1, 2021, please submit a one-page abstract summarizing the article as an attachment to with “Issue 145 Abstract Submission” in the subject line. By July 15, 2021, authors will be notified whether they should submit a full version of their article for peer review. The due date for full-length article submissions will be in November 2021.

Please send any images as low-resolution digital files embedded in a Word document along with the text. If chosen for publication, you will need to supply high-resolution image files (at a minimum of 300 dpi) and secure permission to reprint the images. Those articles selected for publication after the peer review process will be included in issue 145 of the Radical History Review, scheduled to appear in January 2023.

Pratik Chakrabarti: Is Deep History White?

New Book: Simon Dalby’s Anthropocene Geopolitics

A great looking new title from Simon Dalby from the University of Ottawa Press.

Anthropocene Geopolitics: Globalization, Security, Sustainability

9780776628899_2We now find ourselves in a new geological age: the Anthropocene. The climate is changing and species are disappearing at a rate not seen since Earth’s major extinctions. The rapid, large-scale changes caused by fossil-fuel powered globalization increasingly threaten societies in new, unforeseen ways. But most security policies continue to be built on notions that look back- ward to a time when geopolitical threats derived mainly from the rivalries of states with fixed boundaries. Instead, Anthropocene Geopolitics shows that security policy must look forward to quickly shape a sustainable world no longer dependent on fossil fuels.

A future of long-term peace and geopolitical security depends on keeping the earth in conditions roughly similar to those we have known throughout history. Minimizing disruptions that would further put civilization at risk of extinction urgently requires policies that reflect new Anthropocene “planetary boundaries.”

This book is published in English.

Depuis la fin de la dernière période glaciaire, l’humanité a transformé sa niche écologique, modifié sa position dans l’écosystème, provoqué des changements climatiques radicaux et affecté la diversité des espèces aux quatre coins du monde, ce qui a entraîné l’apparition d’une nouvelle époque géologique, l’Anthropocène.

À l’échelle planétaire, les activités humaines exercent un impact direct sur les frontières qu’elles transforment durablement alors que ces mêmes frontières ont constitué le cadre naturel dans lequel l’humanité a pu prospérer durant les dix derniers millénaires. Les changements rapides qui affectent notre système terrestre remettent directement en cause les anciennes hypothèses qui considéraient des frontières stables comme le principal fondement de la souveraineté. Aujourd’hui, ces postulats périmés doivent impérativement être réévalués. Paradoxalement, la phase de mondialisation actuelle nécessite une redéfinition de la notion même de frontières stables. En effet, l’élargissement des droits de propriété et des champs de compétence pourrait en fait prévenir la mise en œuvre de mesures d’adaptation efficaces visant à répondre aux enjeux du changement climatique. Garantir la survie d’une économie fondée sur la consommation de combustibles fossiles demeure à ce jour une priorité politique comme le fait de devoir faire face aux catastrophes naturelles à l’échelle mondiale – ce qui rend les objectifs de durabilité d’autant plus difficiles à atteindre dans un environnement en pleine mutation où les rivalités politiques exacerbées façonnent la politique globale contemporaine.

L’entrée de la Terre dans une nouvelle époque géologique, l’Anthropocène (l’ère de l’homme), représente un formidable défi éthique, qu’il convient de relever en établissant une véritable politique de durabilité, et ce, au moment où l’humanité s’engage dans la dernière phase du processus de mondialisation. Dans un tel contexte, pour être réellement efficaces, les connaissances et les perspectives résultant des analyses académiques et des initiatives pratiques de toute nature devront être intégrées dans une vision globale.

Sheila Jasanoff ~ The Human Imprint: Nature, Time, and Law in the Anthropocene

Settler Geology: Earth’s deep history and the governance of in situ oil spills in Alberta

lined pit pkg 1 249

Contaminated soil from an in situ flow-to-surface event in northern Alberta

In my latest article, I examine 4 related events in which processes that superheat bitumen into a hot emulsion deep underground forced it to Earth’s surface…rather than having it stay put for long enough to be pumped out. I have a lot of data I gathered on the governance response, but this article targets just one part of it (the rest will be in a new book I’m writing on Alberta). Namely, what was the official ’cause’ of the bitumen flowing to the surface?

Here is the paper (free for 50 days from this link, and available from my publications page). If you have a subsription to Political Geography click here.

At first glance, the answer seems straightforward: the technology used to extract the bitumen was clearly the driving force. But things are more complicated than this for a variety of reasons. The most interesting part for the argument in this paper is how Earth’s deep history (i.e. geologic time) was used to explain causal relationships as ancient marine environments, glacial advances and retreats, and floods from the geologic record were used to explain causal relationships in the present. By looking closely at this case, we can see how geologic and human time are made commensurate with one another…that is, how they are put on the same scale of time.

Of course, these temporal scales are not brought together in just any old fashion. Instead, they are brought together in ways that fit with existing governance structures designed to extract value from land. That is, from the structures put in place through settler colonialism. As it happens, settler colonialism has a very peculiar, and quite flawed, idea of time underpinning it and which make it appear natural despite its violent effects on Indigenous peoples, lands, and relations. I have created the term ‘settler geology’ as a shorthand to refer to how this temporal framework is extended to make Earth’s deep history a natural fit with the cultural time of settler colonialism.

Those who follow debates around the Anthropocene will be familiar with a very prominent premise: that the scale of the Anthropocene is incommensurate with human time. Or, in other words, that the two not only operate on vastly different time scales but that, in addition, geologic time cannot be explained in terms of human time (or vice versa). This premise, and adjacent ideas of incommensurate aspects of the Anthropocene (like Tim Morton’s idea of hyperobjects like climate change that are too big to be candidates for experience) are the target of my latest article in Political Geography. In it, I show how geologic time is made commensurate with the governance of one of the planet’s largest fossil fuel extraction operations: the Alberta oil sands (or tar sands, if you are looking to battle it out over terminology).

Settler geology: Earth’s deep history and the governance of in situ oil spills in Alberta


Alberta’s bitumen industry is frequently identified as a key site of environmental politics in the Anthropocene owing to the scale of its fossil fuel extraction operations. While popular images of surface mining activities often focus these discussions, approximately 80% of the bitumen reserves in the Canadian province lie too deep for surface mining and are extracted through in situ technologies, including processes that inject high-temperature, high-pressure steam to mobilize geologic formations of the tar-like fossil fuel. This article examines how in situ extraction was governed in response to four flow-to-surface (FTS) events in which bitumen unexpectedly migrated to Earth’s surface as the result of in situ operations. The governance response to these events is of particular interest because it counters the assertion that existing governance institutions operate on time scales that are incommensurate with those relevant to the Anthropocene. The Alberta case shows the opposite owing to how Earth’s deep history was used to provide temporal syntax for a geotechnical debate that ensued over what caused the FTS events. By detailing the controversy over what caused the FTS events, and the search for “enabling conditions” that would link causal explanations to the spatial distribution of the four bitumen seeps, Earth’s deep history was also made commensurate with the political geography of settler colonialism in Alberta. The article introduces and develops the notion of ‘settler geology’ in order to capture the naturalization of geologic forms of reasoning about Earth’s deep history, the geologic force of anthropogenic in situ operations, and the temporal framework of settler colonial governance in Alberta.

Anthropocene Lecture: Philippe Descola

My latest paper – The Moral Geography of the Earth System

My latest paper is now out entitled, The Moral Geography of the Earth System. It is currently free access here (thanks Wiley!). And it is permanently open-access here, though only in read-only. If there is a problem with the second link try pasting this in your browser: (or click the link in the header to my publications page and go from there).

I’m especially keen on reactions to this article, which tries to do a couple of things to set up a concluding argument: that the form of integration achieved under neoliberal forms of sustainable development is now giving way to new forms of neoliberalism without nature.

The first half argues that one of the key things the Anthropocene is often taken to imply is the loss of ‘other’ spaces, places, and landscapes since one set of (cumulative) social actions now affect how the Earth system functions. The Capitalocene, for instance, is a way to describle those social actions as being primarily compelled and constrained by capitalist forms of accumulation or extraction. As interesting as those debates are, I’m interested here in how response to this loss of others has generated new attempts to describe how we might understand belonging in a new geological era. New debates around the (1) novelty of the Anthropocene, (2) temporal mis-matches between history and geology, (3) new ontological ideas about what is or may exist (or what is or may become), and (4) what sorts of agents need to be accounted for all shape this new arena. I try to think through the accounts of some of the most cited proponents of each. These aren’t necessarily the best accounts of each, and I didn’t pick them with a view to adjudicate. Rather, I chose them because even some of the most widely circulating accounts both have some residual problems (which I point out) and also tend to have targets to the side of new practices now shaping notions of belonging in the Anthropocene–perhaps most notably because they focus on macro, or meta-ethical claims about the proposed epoch as a whole, which is partly why I highlight the Earth system (which is changing in many different ways) rather than the Anthropocene.

So, the second part of the paper looks at two of these new practices as they are circulating in international law and, to some extent, among members of the Anthropocene Working Group. The first of these practices is the idea that we should use the planetary boundaries framework as a kind of grundnorm (a norm basic to all others) in global governance.  The second practice is the idea that humans are part of a geological sphere known as the technosphere that includes buildings, internet cables, and all of the materials and energy that are now organized to support humans. Both of these concepts are gaining steam, albeit in their own ways, as they circulate in the interdisciplinary conversations about how to make sense and semblance of different normative concerns that arise in the context of human impacts on the Earth system.

The final section of the paper names a phenomenon I term neoliberalism without nature. In part, this is a side-long response to arguments that neoliberalism has been rearranging nature for some time through new commodity chains, privatization, and so on. What I am more keen to point out, however, is that nature isn’t needed for any of this. That is, the economy doesn’t need some sort of ‘frontier’ or new space for accumulation in the classic sense that some political economists promote. In fact, I think the idea of neoliberalism without nature helps to focus a set of familial critiques developed by people like Eve Chiapello and Melinda Cooper, who have been pointing out how different financial technologies and practices increasingly shape understandings of how the environment and the economy are entangled with one another. I think that there is some room to expand on these kinds of critiques. I don’t do that in this article, but have plans to do so in the works.



Future Remains: a cabinet of curiosities for the Anthropocene (new book!)

Another great looking new book, from University of Chicago Press, with a slate of well regarded contributors.

9780226508658Future Remains: a cabinet of curiosities for the Anthropocene

Edited by: Gregg Mitman, Marco Armiero, Robert S. Emmett


What can a pesticide pump, a jar full of sand, or an old calico print tell us about the Anthropocene—the age of humans? Just as paleontologists look to fossil remains to infer past conditions of life on earth, so might past and present-day objects offer clues to intertwined human and natural histories that shape our planetary futures. In this era of aggressive hydrocarbon extraction, extreme weather, and severe economic disparity, how might certain objects make visible the uneven interplay of economic, material, and social forces that shape relationships among human and nonhuman beings?

Future Remains is a thoughtful and creative meditation on these questions. The fifteen objects gathered in this book resemble more the tarots of a fortuneteller than the archaeological finds of an expedition—they speak of planetary futures. Marco Armiero, Robert S. Emmett, and Gregg Mitman have assembled a cabinet of curiosities for the Anthropocene, bringing together a mix of lively essays, creatively chosen objects, and stunning photographs by acclaimed photographer Tim Flach. The result is a book that interrogates the origins, implications, and potential dangers of the Anthropocene and makes us wonder anew about what exactly human history is made of.


Gregg Mitman, Marco Armiero, and Robert S. Emmett

The Anthropocene: The Promise and Pitfalls of an Epochal Idea
Rob Nixon


• Anthropocene in a Jar
Tomas Matza and Nicole Heller
• Concretes Speak
Rachel Harkness, Cristián Simonetti, and Judith Winter
• The Age of (a) Man
Joseph Masco
• The Manual Pesticide Spray Pump
Michelle Mart and Cameron Muir

• Hubris or Humility: Genealogies of the Anthropocene
Gregg Mitman

Living and Dying

• Huia Echoes
Julianne Lutz Warren
• Snarge
Gary Kroll
• Marine Animal Satellite Tags
Nils Hanwahr
• Artificial Coral Reef
Josh Wodak
• Freezing Life in the Anthropocene
Elizabeth Hennessy

• Racism and the Anthropocene
Laura Pulido

• Sabotaging the Anthropocene; or, In the Praise of Mutiny
Marco Armiero


• On Possibility; or, The Monkey Wrench
Daegan Miller
• The German Calico Quilt
Bethany Wiggin

• Anthropocene Aesthetics
Robert S. Emmett


• The Mirror—Testing the Counter-Anthropocene
Sverker Sörlin
• Objects from Anna Schwartz’s Cabinet of Curiosities
Judit Hersko
• Technofossil
Jared Farmer
• Davies Creek Road
Trisha Carroll and Mandy Martin

Anthropocene Cabinets of Curiosity: Objects of Strange Change
Libby Robin

Margaret Lock on The Embedded Psyche: The Anthropocene, Postgenomics and the Microbiome

Kyle P. Whyte on Living Our Ancestors’ Dystopia: Indigenous Peoples, Conservation and the Anthropocene