Locating the Anthropocene: Markers, Meaning, Implications

Date / time: 8 March, 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

From where and when can we say the Anthropocene has started? The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) is currently voting on which site will be recommended to the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy as the geological reference point for the start of the Anthropocene epoch. What difference will this make to our understanding of the Anthropocene? What implications does choosing any one site carry? How might this change our understanding of the historical and political processes that produced the Anthropocene?

In advance of the AWG’s final proposal, this seminar will explore some of these questions with members of the AWG by thinking about three major marker types—plutonium, carbon ash (SCPs) and plastics—and their implications.


Simon Turner (AWG/UCL)
Neil Rose (AWG/UCL)
Andy Cundy (AWG/NOC Southampton)
Jenny Bulstrode (UCL)

Further speakers TBC

Anthropocene Histories is a regular online partnership seminar, hosted by the Institute of Historical Research in London and the UCL Anthropocene. Previous seminars can be viewed here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropocene/projects-and-seminars/seminar-series/anthropocene-histories

Convenors: Anna Echterhölter (Vienna), Sophie Page (UCL), Amanda Power (Oxford) and John Sabapathy (UCL).

In the humanities and social sciences, the idea of the Anthropocene has become a powerful, if controversial, tool opening up different ways of thinking about humans, their environments, resource extraction, relations with non-human life, form of violence, the global, and the shape of the past. Our seminar accordingly explores the issues and possibilities raised for historians by ‘the Anthropocene’. The specific question of the Anthropocene’s arguable stratigraphic markers is not our primary focus, rather we will contribute to larger conversations by giving a thicker and more nuanced history to an idea often thinly-situated in politicised readings of modernity. Accounts of the Anthropocene need to address the ‘great acceleration’ of biochemical change arising from European colonialism, industrialisation and the fossil fuel era, but must be equally concerned with the deep-rooted histories of these processes, their institutions, and their supporting ideologies, from the earliest polities to the present.

Image: Wiki Commons – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.