Slow Seminar no. 17 with Nils Bubandt

‘Anthropocene Beginnings’ or Chronotopes of the Anthropocene

2015.04.16 | Mai Korsbæk

Date Mon 04 May
Time 17:00 20:00
Location Jens Christian Schous vej 3, 8000 Aarhus C, building 1451, room 515.

Dear AURA friends,


The next slow seminar will be:

Time: May 4th, from 17.00-20.00

Venue: Jens Christian Schous vej 3, 8000 Aarhus C, building 1451, room 515. The late time is to allow researchers from UCSC to participate via video conference. 

The late time will make that possible. Sandwiches will be served: please rsvp to Mai Korsbaek by March 30 if you would like one.

The theme will be ‘Anthropocene Beginnings’ or Chronotopes of the Anthropocene. 

As the concept of the Anthropocene has gained ground across a range of disciplines in recent years, proposals for when it began have  multiplied.  There are now numerous competing beginnings of the Anthropocene. Some are rather vague and epochal, others are specific down to the date. Some use a single marker or golden spike, others are aggregational.  Some aim to be ’objective’, others are deliberately ‘political’.  The criteria for when the Anthropocene began are as messy as the Anthropocene itself.  Is this ‘messiness’ a good or a bad thing?  Is the contested nature of the beginning of the Anthropocene a sign of its success as a scientific category-in-the-making, because all scientific categories are contested to some degree, particularly when they are newly proposed?  Or is contetion a sign of the failure of the Anthropocene as a scientific category, because the debate is revealing the logical and empirical problems associated with the attempt to pin down the Anthropocene? Both opinions are currently being voiced.  What will this mean for the future of the concept as a scientific and popular category?  What will it means for the Working Group of the Anthropocene?  What will it mean for AURA?

 To discuss these issues and to perhaps take sides in the debate (and allow you to find your own preferred beginning), we have collated for the May slow seminar a list of publications on Anthropocene beginnings that represents some of the most dominant chronotopes of the Anthropocene.

 If you read the texts in the suggested order, the different perspectives will stand out clearly, but you are, of course, free to read them in whatever order you prefer.


Nils Bubandt will give a short introduction to the selection at the seminar.  


Suggested readings:

Introductory Text:

 (1) Braje, Todd and Jon Erlandsson (2013). Looking Forward, Looking Back: Humans, Anthropogenic Change, and the Anthropocene. Anthropocene 4:116-121.

 (1a) Monastersky, Richard (2015). The Human Age. Nature 12 March 2015, vol 519: 144-147

The Contending Texts:

(2) Steffen, Will; Crutzen,  Paul J. and John R. McNeill (2007): The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature? Ambio, Vol. 36, No. 8 (Dec., 2007), pp. 614-621 (Anthropocene began in 1945)

(3) Zalasiewics, Jan et al (2014): When Did the Anthropocene Begin? A Mid-twentieth Century Boundary Level is Stratospherically Optimal. Quaternary International (article in press) 2014:1-8 (Anthropocene Began on July 16, 1943)

(4) Swanson, Heather (Forth). Placing a Golden Spike at the Golden Spike: Railroads in the Making of the Anthropocene. (Anthropocene began in 1869)

(5) Lewis, Simon and Mark Maslin (2015): Defining the Anthropocene. Nature 519:171-180. (Anthropocene began in 1476)

(6) Rudiment, William (2013). The Anthropocene. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 41:45-68.(Anthropocene began 7,000 years ago)

(7) Smith, Bruce and Melinda Zeder (2013).The Onset of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene Vol. 4: 8-13 (Anthropocene began 12,000 years ago)

(8) Glikson, Andrew (2013). Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep-time Blue-Prints of the Anthropocene.Anthropocene 3:89-92. (Anthropocene began 1,8 million years ago)

Concluding texts:

(9) Brown, Anthony et al (2013). Geomorphology of the Anthropocene: Time-Transgressive Discontinuities in Human-Induced Alluviation. Anthropocene 1:3-13.

(10) Rudiment, William, Ellis, Erle et al (2015). Defining the Epoch We Live in. Science 3 April 2015, vol. 348:38-39.

(11) Kerr, Richard (2008). A Time War Over the Period We Live in.  Science. 25 January 2008, vol 319: 402-403.

(12) Monastersky, Richard (2015). The Human Age. Nature 12 March 2015, vol 519: 144-147

Please e-mail Mai to get the articles.

All the best,