Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene - a personal view of what is to be studied

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« Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene. A personal View of what is to be Studied »in Marc Brightman & Jerome Lewis (editors) The Anthropology of Sustanaibility, Palgrave Studies, Palgrave, London, 2017, p. 35-51.Initially given at the 113th AAA meeting in Washington on the 5th of November 2014 as a Distinguished Lecture. (followed by "Interlude: Performing Gaia" with Frédérique Ait-Touati 229-237).


What an amazing gift! Sure it might be poisonous. But how silly it would be not to try to peek through the wrapping to take a glimpse of what is in store. Consider the situation: here is a battered scholarly discipline, always uncertain of its scientific status, constantly plagued by successive and violent “turns” (the “ontological turn” being only the more recent), a field which always finds itself dragged into the middle of harsh political conflicts, a discipline that runs the constant risk of being absorbed by neighboring specialties and voted out of existence by deans and administrators impatient of its methods and ideologies, a discipline that accepts being crushed under the weight of all the violence and domination suffered by the many populations it has decided to champion—a lost cause among all the lost causes; okay, you see the picture, and it is to this same discipline, which a few years ago, an amazing present was offered: pushed from behind by the vast extent of ecological mutations and dragged ahead by philosophers, historians, artists and activists, a sizeable group of natural scientists are describing the quandary of our time in terms that exactly match the standards, vices and virtues of that very discipline. Yes, what a gift! It is really embarrassing, especially if it is not deserved!