What Does it Mean to do Anthropology in the Anthropocene?
I’m Beth. I study people who study earthquakes and people who work to minimize the damage that earthquakes cause. That’s my short introduction; the line I use with nearly everyone to describe my research. I do fieldwork in the offices, conference rooms, labs, and workshops of earthquake-prone Mexico, where cutting-edge research and technical problem solving is happening (not to mention pitched battles over what “cutting edge research and problem solving” could mean in the first place). I am the associate editor in charge of earth sciences, laboratory sciences, and environmental anthropology here at the CASTAC Blog, topics that are entangled in important ways for anthropology. One good example of how these topics have, together, become particularly charged in recent years is that of the “Anthropocene.” This is a term used to designate the period since, alternately, the industrial revolution or the development of the atom bomb, in geological time. Its proponents suggest that this (very recent) period requires renaming because it is humanity, rather than any other force or condition, which has the strongest impact on earth systems today. (read more...)