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Time and the Other in the Anthropocene: Thoughts Towards our Non-Modern Future


Time and the Other in the Anthropocene is a reflection on the contemporary transformation of the figure of the human (anthropos) into a geological agent and the way this is linked to a pluralization of time, on the one hand, and a pluralization of ontology, on the other hand. Specifically, it examines the conceptual link between the disintegration of the notion of Nature in the contemporary and its connection to the new pluralism in anthropology which has arisen as a response to the climate crisis. I consider the way this new pluralism, associated with what has been dubbed “the ontological turn” in anthropology, is strikingly being formulated, no longer through the question of the relativity of cultures, but rather that of natures. This move towards an analysis of various ways of being or what could be called a pluralist realism, I suggest, is one of the most original and crucial responses to climate crisis in that it foregrounds the question of the multiplicity of the modes of composing worlds which the Anthropocene has made a matter of dire necessity to think today.

Using the novel framework Philippe Descola and Bruno Latour’s comparative anthropology, I foreground the anthropologies of Amazonia and Melanesia as two examples of other modes of composing the world. I reflect on the manner in which the ontological predicates of the Amazonian (or Amerindian) and Melanesian world allow us to view fundamental modern concepts – nature and culture, subject and object – otherwise. As essentially anthropomorphic worlds, my implicit suggestion throughout is that Amazonia and Melanesia worlds stand in a stark counterpoint to anthropocentric ones with regard to the most basic principles of what counts as “being” and “human” being. By extending or attributing what we call “agency” and “subjectivity” to every other being in the world, Amazonians and Melanesians also turn these very categories from our point of view unrecognizable. Showing us that being and the world have been thought on entirely different premises and with entirely different concepts, the properly transcendental equivocation of these categories enables us to develop a new comparative vision and invites us to begin the collective work of imagining another mode of being human per se on the new Earth in which we live.

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