Diffracting Ethnography in the Anthropocene

Convenor: (University of Bergamo)

The theoretical framework of Anthropocene has quickly spread across several disciplinary areas, from Anthropology to History, from Ecology to Economics, as a critical tool for the investigation of the contemporary, in the attempt to provide a multidisciplinary context where to confront and compare different sensitivities and competences on the issues of environment, shared responsibility, public interest and common visions about the future.

The concept of Anthropocene provides a sort of metascenario where a multiplicity of separated critical aspects of the contemporary crisis acquire common and mutually depending meanings: climate refugees, food insecurity, energetic crisis, restrictions to water accesses. These are all independent signs converging to assemble a severe criticism of the dominating paradigm of development, based on markets and profits, that has been imposed as a unique model and that has largely contributed to generate all the mentioned criticalities.

The discourse on Anthropocene tries to promote the enhancement of a global awareness of shared belonging, emphasizing the invisible and indirect connections between human actions and their environmental consequences, connecting large and micro scales, superposing individual causes and global effects. The pluri-semantic figurations of diffraction and transversality are powerful metaphors borrowed from disciplines such as philosophy and natural sciences that describe at best the new network of meanings, both theoretical and material ones, needed to grasp all these mutual dependencies.

The panel seeks to discuss this framework characterized by instabilities with the support of ethnographic description and case studies discussion, focussing in particular on:

  •  the mutual relations between small scale (human) actions and large scale (environmental) effects, many of which still need to be accurately understood, in their multidisciplinary dimension
  • the new social unbalances emerging as consequences of the environmental exploitation, worsening existing gaps and unbalances among genders, classes, communities; in particular documenting poor housing, decreasing education, worsening of health conditions
  • new environmental sensitivities originated with the crisis and generated by the inadequate managing of resources, producing new patterns of engagement and collective behaviours; in particular documenting social movements, their environmental commitment, their strategies of aggregation and claim

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