To take the concept of the Anthropocene seriously requires engagement with global history. But what ‘global’ shall this be? In honour of the work of Marilyn Strathern, this essay explores that planetary Anthropocene composed of fragments that do not fit together at all, and yet necessarily do. At the centre of my concerns are the awkward relations between what one might call ‘machines of replication’ – those simplified ecologies, such as plantations, in which life worlds are remade as future assets – and the vernacular histories in which such machines erupt in all their particularity and go feral in counter-intentional forms. Such eruptions are manifestations of post-Enlightenment modern Man, the one who got us into the mess we call the Anthropocene. Yet, in contrast to approaches that begin with the unified continuity of Man (versus indigenous ontologies; as scientific protocol and so on), this article explores contingent eruptions and the patchy, fractured Anthropocene they foster.
Anna Tsing is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and holds a Niels Bohr Professorship at Aarhus University, Denmark. Her many publications include Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton, 2005) and The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Capitalist Life in Ruins (Princeton, 2015).
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