Seminar: Whose? Reading the Anthropocene and the Technosphere from Africa

April 23rd, 2016

Pluralization is a step towards a democracy of operative language allowing different markers of time, thought, tools, realities, scales, causalities, effects, and categories to coexist and participate in shaping global vocabularies.

Does the concept of “the”/“an” Anthropocene promote or inhibit the possibilities of a polycentric global epistemology? Pluralizing (technospheres, anthropocenes—even anthropo-scenes) is a step towards a democracy not only of language.

Does “the”/“an” Anthropocene de-center or re-center the Western ratio, and what are the implications? At what point in time should the Anthropocene be demarcated? Why there and according to whom? The Anthropocene … in whose language? Is it possible to have more than one Anthropocene, along the lines of “modernity in two languages” (“yours” and “ours”), as Partha Chatterjee suggested in 1997? The anxiety is that “the Anthropocene” and even “the technosphere” may become, wittingly or unwittingly, a convenient vocabulary to restore Euro- and Western-centricity, taking us back to an imperial or colonial mode of representation, of seeing from Berlin, London, and Washington, and extending the hegemonic worldview without regard to situatedness.

Pluralization is a step towards a democracy of operative language allowing different markers of time, thought, tools, realities, scales, causalities, effects, and categories to coexist and participate in shaping global vocabularies. This seminar will therefore consider what a (not “the”) technosphere, an atmosphere, and a biosphere might mean from the continent of Africa, not just as outcomes of incoming ideas or artifacts in the present, but as endogenous modes of thought and practice over a much longer durée. The seminar brings together some of the world’s most renowned scholars of Africa, each addressing the concept of the Anthropocene (and the technosphere) from her/his own specialism: archaeology, history, STS, and graphic design. Guest lecturers are Shadreck Chirikure, University of Cape Town; Gabrielle Hecht, University of Michigan; Chaz Maviyane-Davies, Massachusetts School of Art and Design; and D. A. Masolo, University of Louisville (Philosopher).