Approaching the Anthropocene: Perspectives from the Humanities and Fine Arts

Approaching the Anthropocene: Perspectives from the Humanities and Fine Arts

Thursday-Friday, May 7-8, 2015
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

The conference is free and open to the public. To register to attend, please complete this form.

Scientists have declared that we are in living in the Anthropocene, an age in which human behavior and actions are massively altering the ecosystems of the earth. Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen claims that whereas humans once saw themselves as “rebels against a superpower we call ‘Nature,’” now “we are taking control of Nature’s realm, from climate to DNA. We humans are becoming the dominant force for change on Earth.”  This conference will include papers that explore how literature, the visual arts, and other cultural and ideological constructs represent the altered relationship between humans and the natural world; we will examine ethical, political, psychological and philosophical responses to the human domination of nature.

This two-day conference will feature a keynote address by Timothy Morton, the Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University. Morton’s publications include Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minnesota, 2013), The Ecological Thought (Harvard UP, 2010), and Ecology without Nature (Harvard, 2007). Morton blogs regularly at

Conference schedule:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

8:30 AM coffee and pastries

8:45 AM Welcome: Susan Derwin, Director, IHC

9:00 AM The Evolving Anthropocene: Views from Two Disciplines
Chair: Susan Derwin, Director, IHC
Phillip John Usher, French, New York University: “A Humanist Anthropocene? The Case of Extraction Landscapes”
Volker M. Welter, History of Art & Architecture, UCSB: “The Evolution of Umwelt: Stages in the Architectural Design of the Anthropocene”

10:00 AM break

10:15 AM Climate Justice at the Crossroads of Extractivism and Resistance
Facilitator: Kum-Kum Bhavnani, Sociology, UCSB
Janet Walker, Film and Media Studies, UCSB: “Deepwater Horizons: Media Ecologies of the Gulf Coast”
Sarah Jane Pinkerton, Feminist Studies, UCSB: “Invisible-5: Art and Environmental Justice along California’s Interstate 5”
Zack King, Sociology, UCSB: “Scorched Earth Manifesto: The Hydrocarbon Industry’s Vision of the Future”
Christopher Walker, English, UCSB: “Material Speculations: Asteroid Mining and the Limits of Extractivism”
Corrie Ellis, Sociology, UCSB: “Activism in the Anthropocene: Anti-Fracking Activists’ Motivations, Inspirations and Practices”
John Foran, Sociology, UCSB: “The Global Climate Justice Movement of the Future”

12:00 PM lunch

12:45 PM Excess, Limitlessness, Dialectics
Chair: Corrie Ellis, Sociology, UCSB
Lynn Badia, English and Film Studies, University of Alberta, “Absolute Energy: The Conflict Between Planet and World”
Tristan Partridge, Center for Nanotechnology and Society, UCSB: “At the Mercy of the Future: Energy, Excess and Responsibility Amid Anthropocenic Climate Change”
Alden Wood, English, UC Irvine: “’Weaving’ a New Dialectics of Ecology: Reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the Anthropocene”

2:00 PM break

2:15 PM The Anthropocene In Situ
Chair: Christopher Walker, English, UCSB
Tammy Lynn Elwell, Geography, UCSB: “Governing Oceans in the Anthropocene”
Daniel Grinberg, Film and Media Studies, UCSB: “Tracing Toxic Legacies: GIS as a Metric of Agent Orange’s Impacts”
Yanjun Liu, Political Science, UCSB, and Cheng Li, East Asian Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Mao’s War against Nature in Chinese Ethnic Borderlands: A Perspective from Ecocinema”
Julie Koppel Maldonado, American University, Anthropology, “Resisting the Forces of the Anthropocene: The Transformation of Places, Communities, and Lifeways”

4:00 PM keynote address by Tim Morton, English, Rice University: “Humankind”

5:30 PM reception

Friday, May 8, 2015

8:30 AM coffee and pastries

8:45 AM Welcome: Susan Derwin, Director, IHC

9:00 AM Depression, Speculation, Rejuvenation
Chair: Brian Tyrrell, History, UCSB
Sean J. Hernandez, Economics, UCSB: “The Darkest of Greens: Measuring the Incidence and Character of Eco-Depression in Undergraduates”
Lili Yan, English, Soochow University & Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College: “’Animals R Us’: A Study of the Question of the Animal and the Anthropocene in The Year of the Flood
Yi Chuang E. Lin, Foreign Languages and Literature, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, “The Waste Land Revisited”

10:30 AM break

10:45 AM Transformative Makers
Chair: Alexandra Magearu, Comparative Literature, UCSB
Kayla Anderson, The New Centre for Research & Practice, “Doing Philosophy: Art as Ethical Testing Ground for the Anthropocene”
Brad Monsma, English, CSU-Channel Islands, “Distributed Agency and the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale”
Leila Nadir, Sustainability Studies, University of Rochester, and Cary Peppermint, Art and Art History, Digital Media Studies, University of Rochester, “Late Anthropocene”

12:00 PM lunch

1:00 PM Imaging The Nonhuman Animal
Chair: Chloe Diamond-Lenow, Feminist Studies, UCSB
Lisa Jevbratt, Art, UCSB: “Doing, Thinking and Looking with Non-human Animals”
Bryan B. Rasmussen, English, California Lutheran University: “Icons of Loss: Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Art of the Anthropocene”
Erin E. Wiegand, Cinema Studies, San Francisco State University: “Visualizing the Factory Farm: Undercover Video, Activist Drones, and Satellite Art”

2:15 PM break

2:30 PM Reading: poet Joseph Harrison, author of Shakespeare’s Horse, Identity Theft, and Someone Else’s Name

3:30 PM Closing remarks

4:00 PM Closing reception