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Mastery & Managerialism in the Making of Anthropocene Subjects

Authors: Juanita Sundberg*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Anthropocene, Human-Environment Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: Anthropocene; pedagogy; subject-making; mastery; imperialism; political ontologies
Session Type: Paper
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The Anthropocene as new geologic epoch has electrified the discipline of geography, quickly becoming the new lingua franca for environment-oriented scholars, albeit with vastly different training. This paper reflects on the pedagogical implications of the Anthropocene, for the concept not only makes assertions about the ontology of the human, but also, Clare Colebrooke (2016) argues, a diagnosis and imperative calling for urgent action. How do our explanations for the causes of, and solutions to the crises at hand invite our students to fashion themselves as political ecological subjects and agents in the world? To address this question, I examine how scholarship delineating the Anthropocene a) conceptualizes the ontology of the human and, b) envisions the future. My analysis engages feminist, Indigenous, and anti-racist critics to suggest Anthropocene scholarship revives the human as Imperial Man, the master subject who claims to have achieved dominion and control over nature; and, whose epistemological tools empower and entitle him to know the world and, therefore, to manage it (and, presumably, other earth inhabitants as well). We have seen this kind of self-fashioning before, in the form of the white man claiming to carry the burden of colonization. If geographers wish to avoid training a new generation of imperial masters/Earth Systems managers, I suggest we engage decolonial pedagogical strategies that invite students to re-imagine the human. I conclude with a brief outline of pedagogical strategies for teaching the Anthropocene otherwise.

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