October 2014

Donna Haraway: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene—Staying with the Trouble

Form and Rhetoric in the Discourse of the Anthropocene

“The sky has not fallen. Not yet.” In this brief, dazzlingly associative presentation, the feminist philosopher of science Donna Haraway begins from the observation that the best work across academic disciplines takes for granted a rejection of individualism as either an object of study or a methodological approach. Life is relationality all the way down; to be “one” is always to be “many.” How, then, did thinking about “the global” emerge, and what are the limitations of this concept with the advent of the Anthropocene? Drawing on science studies, science fiction, and eco-activist art practices, Haraway troubles the anthro in Anthropocene by arguing that the sciences of modern synthesis offer powerful tools for conceptualizing life in terms of copy and competition, but cannot account for the idea of “obligate symbiosis.” Her own symbiotic approach is to situate the Anthropocene in relation to the deep history of capitalism (the “capitalocene”) and the potential to activate poetic, destructive, powerfully vital practices of the “cthulhucene.” Named for the ancient, unspeakably enigmatic, squid-like deity invoked by the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, the cthulhucene marks, for Haraway, the possibility for the not-yet-finished, the ongoing, the dreadful but generative forces of the inhuman within the human.

Courtesy AURA: Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene.

Donna Haraway is a feminist theorist, philosopher of science, and Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Trained as a biologist, her pioneering interdisciplinary work draws on the life sciences, critical theory, feminism, anthropology, and cultural forms such as science fiction. Her publications include Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern ScienceSimians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, and When Species Meet.

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