The Anthropocene's Multiple Colonial Dimensions

Authors: Dominic Wilkins*, Syracuse University
Topics: Anthropocene, Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: anthropocene, colonialism, political ecology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 28
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The notion that we now live in the Anthropocene has proliferated throughout academic and non-academic circles over the past two decades, despite numerous strong critiques. It is thus important that geographers and scholars in cognate disciplines continue critically engaging this new conception of the world. This paper contributes to this broad project by examining colonialism’s multiple presences in the Anthropocene. It begins by arguing that there are two overarching yet crucially distinct scholarly approaches to the Anthropocene. The first, which I term the Descriptive Anthropocene, is most prevalent among natural scientists, while social science and humanities scholarly discourse on the topic is more concerned with the Anthropocene as a theoretical-political concept. The dissonances between these two approaches leads scholars who discuss the Anthropocene from different sub/disciplines to speak past one another. One constant thread between these conversations, however, is colonialism’s central presence. This paper discusses several ways that past and present colonialism has influenced the Anthropocene’s production and experiences thereof. In addition, this paper contends that the concept and its continued use is itself a tool of and for future colonization, particularly when it comes to the techno-politics of geoengineering.

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