Ecology, Play, Design: On Anthropocene Festivals

Authors: Max Ritts*, University of Minnesota, Karen Bakker, UBC
Topics: Environment, Anthropocene, Cyberinfrastructure
Keywords: anthropocene; capital; creativity; play;
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Ambassador Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper is a conceptual mapping of an emerging terrain of environmental engagement: multifaceted events, happenings, unconferences, and workshops we term “Anthropocene Festivals.” Anthropocene Festivals are collaborative experiments between diverse environmental actors. They explore prefigurative environmentalisms and embody the “speculative turn” of interest to political ecologists and scholars in the environmental humanities (e.g. Braun 2015; Tsing et al. 2017; Escobar 2018). Anthropocene Festivals are interesting to us for what they say about environmentalism’s changing sociality. They seek to congregate entities as diverse as robot forests and singing glaciers – presaging communities “where the reality of humanity… has literally gone sci-fi” (Emmelhainz 2018). For Max Haiven (2018), sociality is “not simply the social institutions and structures of society, but the grammar of the relational imagination, action and potential from which those institutions and structures are made, and from which we social subjects are all made too” (160). What might a rapidly institutionalized desire for experimental environmental sociality reveal about the politics of environmentalism generally?

This talk offers a genealogy of the Anthropocene Festival, and develops a typology drawn from our analysis of 100 contemporary examples of Anthropocene Festivals. We suggest that the languages, modes of address, and cultures of exchange one finds in the Festival's "playful" assemblies of humans and non-humans prefigure new topologies of environmental governance, new critical openings, and new capitalist natures. The significance of Anthropocene Festival is its complex status as an aspirational environmental culture proposing new ways of constructing the social in contemporary eco-politics.

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