Genealogies of Anthropocentrism

  • Date: Jan 29, 2024
  • Time: 04:00 PM - 05:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Zoltán Boldizsár Simon
  • Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology, Bielefeld University, Germany
  • Location: Online
  • Host: Department Structural Changes of the Technosphere
  • Contact:
Genealogies of Anthropocentrism

How did we end up in the Anthropocene? In the human and social sciences, a growing consensus holds anthropocentrism responsible for setting human societies and the Earth System onto a collision course, typically defining anthropocentrism as human exceptionalism in viewing nature and other lifeforms as objects of human mastery and means to human ends. The nature of anthropocentrism and its exact role in driving the Anthropocene are, however, seldom subjected to thorough research. It is to remedy this situation that I aim to set up a research group to investigate the workings of anthropocentric modes of human action over the long term – from early European colonialism to the contemporary technoscience – as potential drivers of Earth System transformations.

The presentation will sketch the premises and outlines of the larger research project, built on the contention that anthropocentrism has no uniform shape but takes historically distinct forms. Each form of anthropocentrism might play different roles in transforming the planet. The key question is: which forms of anthropocentrism can explicitly be linked with driving the Anthropocene? While some forms might indeed drive environmental or geological transformations, only those can be seen as drivers of the Anthropocene which, in line with the work of Earth System science, testify to a form of human agency being capable to drive transformations on the level of the Earth System. All in all, exploring the full complexities of forms of human-centered modes of acting over the long term amounts to investigating a potentially key answer to one of the central questions of the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology asking how exactly humanity drives the emergence of the Anthropocene.

About the Speaker

Zoltán Boldizsár Simon is historian / historical theorist affiliated with Bielefeld University, working at the intersections of history of science, historical theory, history of knowledge, history of ideas, Anthropocene research, and science and technology studies. He has been fixed-term assistant professor at Leiden University and visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. He is the author of two monographs, History in Times of Unprecedented Change (Bloomsbury, 2019) and The Epochal Event: Transformations in the Entangled Human, Technological, and Natural Worlds (Palgrave, 2020), and his articles can be read in journals ranging from the Anthropocene Review through Isis to History and Theory.

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