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Anthropocene and Empire: Discourse Networks of the Human Record

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 October 2020


Scientists have recently proposed 1610 as a candidate for the first year of the new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene. They pinpoint the rise of European colonialism and the global movement of life among ecosystems it precipitated as the triggers for measurable changes in the earth system. We used digital humanities methods to mine historical archives to evaluate the relations among colonialism, early modern globalism, and the origins of the Anthropocene. We suggest that the Anthropocene was initiated by a premodern earth system that defined life across the globe in spatial terms, furthering the goals of empire—a regime of biopower that has not been adequately acknowledged in debates on the Anthropocene. We propose that the idea of empire, rather than Enlightenment narratives of progress and scientific modernity, must be considered in our definition of the Anthropocene. (JJL and JB)

Special Topic: Varieties of Digital Humanities
Copyright © 2020 James Jaehoon and Joshua Beckelhimer

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