European Association for Studies of Literature, Culture and the Environment

Stacy Alaimo Webinar: Bodily Natures, Anthropocene Subjects

EASLCE Webinar
With Dr. Stacy Alaimo
February 11, 2015 (7 pm CET)
“Bodily Natures, Anthropocene Subjects.” 


Credit. Rhonda Zwillinger from "The Dispossessed Series"

Credit. Rhonda Zwillinger from "The Dispossessed Series"

As Humanities scholars grapple with the idea of the anthropocene, one of the key questions may be how to conceive of the “anthropos.”  Does the anthropocene demand the reconceptualization of the human as a concept, species, geological force, or transhistorical, global agent? Most notably, perhaps, Dipesh Chakrabarty questions the subject of the anthropocene in his essays,  “The Climate of History,” and “Postcolonial Studies and the Challenge of Climate Change.” Although the emerging theories of the anthropocene have their own trajectories, it may be useful to put them into conversation with new materialisms, material feminisms, and material ecocriticisms.  Stacy Alaimo’s conception of “transcorporeality,” in Bodily Natures, for example, offers a way of thinking the self as material, which may be useful for understanding how the human is not a disembodied force that produces the anthropocene but always already part of the dynamics of the world. This webinar aims to open up questions about anthropocene subjects and their possible relations to the subjects of material feminisms, posthumanisms, and new materialisms. How does the concept of the anthropocene call into question the human subject as it has been theorized in the (environmental) humanities?  How do material ecocriticisms challenge or complicate the subjects of anthropocene theories?


- What does it mean to think subjectivity as material within the texts and theories discussed in Alaimo’s Bodily Natures?  In terms of thinking the subject as material, what does the concept of transcorporeality account for and what does it leave out? What are the theoretical, political and ethical implications of emphasizing the materiality of the human subject?

- The concept of the anthropocene emphasizes the enormity of the human impact upon the world, but most theoretical and visual renditions of the anthropocene render the human itself as that which is invisible, transcendent, abstract, or immaterial.  What would it mean to rethink the human itself as a posthuman, material entity, ourselves as produced by the dynamics of the anthropocene? Could the “material memoirs” discussed in Alaimo’s Bodily Natures be reconsidered as anthropocene autobiographies?  Could the practices and knowledges of people with multiple chemical sensitivity/environmental illness be considered as paradigmatic of what it means to be human in the anthropocene?

- Drawing on Bodily Natures, consider what it would mean to consider the anthropocene primarily through chemical and biological alterations, rather than geological ones.  Should the geological turn be complemented by or inclusive of a biological or chemical turn?

- How does the anthropocene pose a problem for history, postcolonialism, and the notion of human subjectivity, according to Dipesh Chakrabarty?  What alternative conceptions of the human subject does Chakrabarty put forth?  What are the ethical and political implications of his notion of the anthropocene subject?

- What could various material feminisms or material ecocriticisms contribute to thinking the anthropocene subject? Are there implicit or explicit alliances, overlaps, or differences between the subjects of material ecocriticisms and the anthropocene subject?

- How should human or posthuman subjectivity be thought in the anthropocene?  And does the conception of human subjectivity matter for the ethics and politics of environmental justice, climate change, pollution, and extinction?  Could the conception of the anthropocene subject affect nonhuman lives and the more-than-human world?

Required Readings

- Stacy Alaimo, Bodily Natures: Science, Environment and the Material Self, (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2010), chapters 4 & 5, “Material Memoirs: Science, Autobiography, and the Material Self,” and “Deviant Agents: The Science, Culture and Politics of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.”

- Dipesh Chakrabarty “Postcolonial Studies and the Challenge of Climate Change,” New Literary History 43.1 (Winter 2012): 13; or Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History,” Critical Inquiry 35 (Winter 2009).

- Highly recommended: selected essays from Material Ecocriticism, edited by Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2014).

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