“Stratum and Stories: The Multidisciplinary Anthropocene”
Speaker: Julia Adeney Thomas (University of Notre Dame)
International Symposium on Anthropocene Studies
Dec. 11, 2019
@ National Folk Museum of Korea
The “Anthropocene” is first and foremost a geological concept, but understanding how human forces and Earth System forcings have conjoined to transform the planet and our current options requires a multidisciplinary effort. This presentation argues that the complexity of the Anthropocene requires new ways of producing knowledge that bring disciplines into conversation with each other. However, multidisciplinarity is not the same as interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity integrates different kinds of knowledge to produce a single, coherent synthesis, but the Anthropocene is far too complex for such an approach. Because the Anthropocene itself is multifaceted, multiscalar, and the product of a recent coalescence of human activities, some having very deep origins such as the mastery of fire by our ancestral species and others, such as tourism, becoming widespread only recently. To assume that the Earth System and human systems operate separately is to misunderstand what’s happening, and yet to suggest that no difference exists between geology’s scales, methods, and questions and the scales, methods, and questions important to social scientists and humanists is to over-simplify the situation and suggest that a single solution to this problem is within reach.