851-0010-00L  Global Histories of the Anthropocene

SemesterSpring Semester 2021
LecturersT. Bartoletti
Periodicitynon-recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish

AbstractThe seminar will critically examine the discursive history of the Anthropocene. It gives an overview of debates on the Anthropocene narrative and its transdisciplinary framework. A global history approach to these debates arises as a substantial contribution to better analyze global processes of exploitation of natural resources, territorial dispossession and imperialism.
ObjectiveThe aim is to examine how natural scientists and historians analyze climate change and the human imprint on the environment, processing data in a transdisciplinary way. Students will select a research project related to climate change, environmental research or similar issues conducted at ETH Zurich and write an essay on how the Anthropocene narrative operates in the scientific agenda.
ContentAccording to the standard Anthropocene narrative, the Industrial Revolution marks the onset of large-scale human modification of the earth. Nevertheless, several scholars, especially from the global south, have noted that the Anthropocene concept constructs a single and unilineal narrative about humans as a species. Only considering measurements of carbon dioxide levels, it naturalizes the specific cultural behaviors (colonialism, inequality, etc.) arguably responsible for climate change. Contrary to ‘pure’ natural science and ‘human species’ explanations, this Eurocentric pattern has been strongly questioned due to its lack of socio-historical differentiation and intra-species distinction. For example, as of 2008, the advanced countries of the ‘North’ accounted for 18.8 percent of the world population and were responsible for 72.7 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted since 1850, while the poorest 45 percent of the human population accounted for 7 percent of emissions. Is it methodologically appropriate to refer to all humans as agents of a new geological era? This seminar will explore the slipping between natural/cultural explanations and critically tackle how the Anthropocene narrative is marking scientific and political agendas.