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.
Why diversity matters in the global political economy
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
What if those translations across difference that characterize global supply chains were to inspire a model of power and struggle in the contemporary political economy? In contrast to the unified Empire offered by Hardt and Negri, supply chains show us how attention to diversity-and the transformative collaborations it inspires-is key to both identifying what is wrong with the world today and imagining what we can do about it. This article describes a politics in which transformative collaborations across difference form the radical heart of possibility. Nonhumans are involved, as well as people with starkly different backgrounds and agendas. Love might be transformed.
A Diagram of Coordination in a Satoyama Forest
Elaine Gan and Anna Tsing
This article experiments with combining three concepts— coordination, assemblage, diagram—to make vivid the composition of a satoyama forest in central Japan. The forest comes to life as a more-than-human assemblage that emerges through coordinations established by evolutionary and historical accommodations to life cycles, seasonal rhythms, and activity patterns. These coordinations are expressed through a diagram of intersecting temporalities of people, plants, and woodlands that condition the flourishing or decline of wild matsutake mushrooms. Working diagrammatically, we can better articulate how juxtapositions of humans and non-humans become assemblages that hold together through coordinations—without a unified purpose or design. We argue that understanding coordination is key to more livable multispecies worlds.
Anthropocene as Science Fiction and Scholarship-in-the-Making
Heather Anne Swanson, Nils Bubandt, and Anna Tsing
How might one responsibly review a field just coming into being—such as that provoked by the term Anthropocene? In this article, we argue for two strategies. First, working from the premise that the Anthropocene field is best understood within its emergence, we review conferences rather than publications. In conference performances, we glimpse the themes and tensions of a field-to-come. Second, we interpret Anthropocene as a science-fiction concept, that is, one that pulls us out of familiar space and time to view our predicaments differently. This allows us to explore emergent figurations, genres, and practices for the transdisciplinary study of real and imagined worlds framed by human disturbance. In the interplay and variation across modes for constructing this field, Anthropocene scholarship finds its shape.