Welcome to the Anthropocene

Welcome to the Anthropocene is an interdisciplinary lecture series organized by the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities where leading scholars at UiO ask how the age of the "Anthropocene" has transformed their discipline and research.

A landscape where minerals are extracted from the ground.

Photo: Mineral extraction at the Great Salt Lake, Utah, NASA

The contested term Anthropocene is widely used as a conceptual frame to describe the most recent era in Earth's history where humans have radically changed the planet's climate and ecosystems (Croetzen & Stoermer 2000). Drawing on current research, the lectures in this series explore how disciplines such as biology, earth system science, history, anthropology, geography, philosophy, science fiction studies or law respond and can contribute to a better understanding of the current planetary crisis. At the same time, the talks in this series ask about possibilities for far-reaching environmental and socio-political transformations.

2021 Lecture Series

Feedbacks and Tipping Points in Nature and Society

February 2, 2021 16:15-17:15 CET, Zoom

Lecturer: Dag O. Hessen

Suggested readings

Otto et. al. 2020. "Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth's climate by 2050." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - PNAS 117(5): 2354-2365

Wiedermann et. al. 2019. "Domino Effects in the Earth System -- The potential role of wanted tipping points." Global Sustainability. 

Lenton et. al. 2008. "Tipping elements in the Earth's climate system." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - PNAS 105(6): 1786-93


When is the Anthropocene? The Multiple Lifetimes of Climate and Nature Emergency

February 9, 2021 16:15-17:15 CET, Zoom

Lecturer: Helge Jordheim

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Decades after the concept of the Anthropocene was first launched in 2000, scientists are still disagreeing about when it began, whether it was the development of farming and sedentary culture some 8000 years ago, the colonization of America, the Industrial Revolution, or the Great Acceleration. However, the question of when goes much deeper. A closer looks quickly prompts us to ask another question: In what time, or rather, in plural, in what times do the Anthropocene and likewise another projected event, the Sixth Extinction, take place. In human, historical time, which are mostly counted from the beginning of writing between 3400 and 3300 BCE? In geological time, which goes back approximately 4,6 billion years? Or in the times of other species, such as the Yangtze Finless Porpoise quickly going extinct? In this talk I will suggest a way to think about these multiple times of the Anthropocene by employing some of the terminology we have developed in the LIFETIMES project (Toppforsk-NFR), currently at work at the university of Oslo. I will also ask the question what kind of time measurement and management practices we need to start to act on what we know.


Suggested readings

Jordheim, H. 2019. "Return to Chronology". In Rethinking historical time: new approaches to presentism, edited by Marek Tamm & Laurent Olivier, 43-56. Bloomsbury Academic.

Bastian, M. 2012. "Fatally Confused: Telling the Time in the Midst of Ecological Crises". Environmental Philosophy 9(1): 23-48.


Risks from Climate Extremes in the Anthropocene

February 16, 2021 16:15-17:15 CET, Zoom

Lecturer: Jana Sillmann

Suggested readings

Sillmann, J. et al. 2021. "Extreme Weather and Climate Change." In CLIMATE CHANGE: Observed Impacts on Planet Earth - 3rd edition, edited by Trevor M. Letscher. Elsevier

Sillmann, J. et. al. (eds). 2020. Climate extremes and their implications for impact and risk assessment, Amsterdam: Elsevier

Sillmann, J. et. al. 2018. "From Hazard to Risk". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 99(8):1689-1693

Sillmann, J. et. al. 2015. "Climate emergencies do not justify engineering the climate." Nature climate change 5(4): 290-292


Geographies of the Anthropocene: Political Ecology, Feminism, Race and Contested Knowledges

March 2, 2021 16:15-17:15 CET, Zoom

Lecturer: Andrea Nightingale

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This session provides an introduction to debates on the Anthropocene in Geography. As a discipline that crosses between social and physical science, geographers of different stripes have been central to Anthropocene conversations. On the one hand, many are involved in designing disaster risk reduction protocols or climate change adaptation plans, while on the other, some of the most vociferous critiques of those same concepts have come from the same discipline. Here we will focus on why this tension exists and how geographers working with political ecology, feminist theory and development studies approach Anthropocene issues. The political economy of governance and knowledge are central concerns while contributions from feminist and race studies have helped to show the importance of power and politics how environmental issues arise and come to be important at different scales.


Suggested readings

Pelido, L. 2018. "Racism and the Anthropocene". In Future remains: a cabinet of curiosities for the Anthropocene, edited by Gregg Mitman, Marco Armiero & Robert S. Emmett. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Swyngedouw, E. & Ernstson, H. 2018. "Interrupting the Anthropo-obScene: Immuno-biopolitics and Depoliticizing Ontologies in the Anthropocene". Theory, culture & society 35(6): 3-30.

Davis, H. & Todd, Z. 2017. "On the Importance of a Date, Or, Decolonizing the Anthropocene". ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 16(4): 761-780.

Castree, N. 2014. "Geography and the Anthropocene II: Current Contributions". Geography compass 8(7): 450-463.


Speculative Infrastructures: The Future City and the Anthropocene

March 9, 2021 16:15-17:15 CET, Zoom

Lecturer: Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay

Suggested readings

Jubaili, D. 2016. "The Worker". Iraq + 100: stories from a century after the invasion, edited by Hassan Blasim. Great Britain: Comma Press

Jingfang, H. 2015. "Folding Beijing". Uncanny Magazine, vol. 2.

Singh, V. 2013. "With Fate Conspire". Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ian Whates. Solaris.


The Archive of the Anthropocene: The Nature of Political Documents and the Role of Documents in Politics of Nature

March 16, 2021 16:15-17:15 CET, Zoom

Lecturer: Kristin Asdal

Suggested readings

Asdal, K. & Hobæk, B. 2016. "Assembling the Whale: Parliaments in the Politics of Nature". Science as Culture 25(1): 96-116.

Asdal, K. 2015. "What is the issue? The transformative capacity of documents". Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory 16(1): 74-90.


Sustainability and Law in the Anthropocene

March 23, 2021 16:15-17:15 CET, Zoom

Lecturer: Beate Sjåfjell

Presentation from the lecture (pdf)

Suggested readings

Sjåfjell, B., Häyhä, T. & Cornell, S. 2020. "A Research-Based Approach to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A Prerequisite to Sustainable Business and Finance". University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2020-02.

Sjåfjell, B. 2019. "Responding to the grand challenge of our time". In Sustainable and Efficient Transport. Incentives for Promoting a Green Transport Market,  edited by Eftestøl-Wilhelmsson, E., Sankari, S. & Bask, A. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing. University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2019-53, Nordic & European Company Law Working Paper No. 19-07.


Food Landscapes: Towards a Political Ecology of Pandemics

April 6, 2021 16:15-17:15 CET, Zoom

Lecturer: Mariel Aguilar-Støen

Suggested readings

Fearnley, L. 2015. "WILD GOOSE CHASE: The Displacement of Influenza Research in the Fields of Poyang Lake, China". Cultural Anthropology 30(1):12-35

Becheva, S. & Chemnitz, C. (eds.) 2014. "MEAT ATLAS: Facts and figures about the animals we eat, Heinrich Böll Foundation". Berlin, Germany, and Friends of the Earth Europe. Brussels: Belgium

Wallace, R. G. 2009. "Breeding Influenza: The Political Virology of Offshore Farming". Antipode 41(5): 916-951.


Domestication and Multispecies Relations in the Anthropocene

April 13, 2021 16:15-17:15 CET, Zoom

Lecturer: Marianne Elisabeth Lien

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Human civilization is often presented as a story of domestication. According to this story, domination and control of animals and plants are key to cultural progress and prosperity, and foundational for the world as we know it.  Ethnographic and archeological studies show, however, that human ways of living with other species are far more diverse than scholars have typically portrayed them. Recent findings in archeology and anthropology emphasize reciprocal relations, reversible change, and gradual and open-ended processes of mutual adaptation. 
In this lecture, I suggest that a critical understanding of stories we live by is crucial in order to address the challenges of the Anthropocene.  Cross-disciplinary curiosity is called for sensitive to the unfolding of multispecies relations beyond the agricultural realm. I propose seeing domestication as a multispecies relation, with unexpected ripple effects. Domestication then, is not only about human control over a single species, or confinement as such, but a set of relational practices through which multiple landscape formations are generated.


Suggested readings

Lien, M. E., Swanson, H. A. & Ween, G. B. 2018. "INTRODUCTION: Naming the Beast—Exploring the Otherwise". In Domestication gone wild: politics and practices of multispecies relations, edited by Heather Anne Swanson, Marianne Elisabeth Lien & Gro B. Ween, 1-30. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Lien, M. E. 2017. "Unruly Appetites: Salmon Domestication 'All the Way Down'". In Arts of living on a damaged planet, edited by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan & Nils Bubandt, 107-125. University of Minnesota Press.

Blanchette, A. 2015. "HERDING SPECIES: Biosecurity, Posthuman Labor, and the American Industrial Pig". Cultural Anthropology 30(4): 640-669



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Published Jan. 11, 2021 2:45 PM - Last modified Sep. 14, 2021 1:08 PM