Repositioning the social at the heart of the Anthropocene

The origin and nature of power can be important criteria in framing periodisations of time and, therefore, potentially the Anthropocene. Foucault, for example, ascribed modernity to a paradigm shift in power: from let live and make die, to let die and make live. Biopower became the distinctive sign of modernity.

Considering that the Anthropocene is not only a new geological age but also a new social one, the nature of power needs to be addressed. What forms does power assume in the anthropocene? Which kind(s) of authority are emerging and upon which premises are they legitimised? This talk will sketch a genealogy of geopower, the kind of power that takes the whole earth and its right use as its object of knowledge and intervention, from colonial discourses and practices claiming a “rational exploitation of the globe”, to Pax Americana’s global conservationist project, and finally to the emerging ways of knowing and governing the Earth system that have accompanied the Anthropocene concept.

Precis of keynote address by Christophe Bonneuil at the three-day symposium:

Repositioning The Social At The Heart Of The Anthropocene:
A Transdisciplinary Dialogue

Friday 30th October until Sunday 1st November 2015, University of Kent.

  • Christophe Bonneuil (Keynote) is a Senior Researcher in history of science, science studies and environmental history at the Centre Alexandre Koyré  (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique & École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris). His research explores the co-evolution of ways of knowing and ways of governing nature and the Earth. He has recently published a global environmental history of the Anthropocene (The shock of the Anthropocene. The Earth, history and us, Verso, 2015 [2013 in french], with J-B. Fressoz) and edited The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis : Rethinking Modernity in a new Epoch, (Routledge, 2015, with C. Hamilton and F. Gemenne).


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