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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


The Anthropocene (Climate Histories) offers alternating sessions in the related fields of climate history and Anthropocene studies. Meetings will involve a mix of invited speakers and reading group sessions, generally held on Thursdays at 1pm–2pm in Seminar Room 2. All are welcome!

Organised by Fiona Amery, Alexis Rider and Richard Staley.

Lent Term 2024

25 January

Writing Workshop

Are you writing a chapter, a paper, a proposal, introduction, review or any other piece of work in progress somehow related to the Anthropocene and climate histories? If you send us your writing (emailing and by Thursday 18 January we'll develop a circle of writers and readers, asking each participant to read and be ready to discuss one other participants' work.

8 February

Fiona Amery (Emmanuel College, Cambridge)
Conveying the ineffable: the Aurora Borealis at the limits of communicable experience

'No pencil can draw it, no colours can paint it, and no words can describe it in all its magnificence.' So wrote Karl Weyprecht, an Austro-Hungarian Polar explorer, of the aurora in 1877, diagnosing the tension at the heart of late nineteenth century auroral science. It could not be extracted or reproduced and therefore knowledge of the phenomenon seemed destined to remain incomplete. To invert Bruno Latour's concept, the aurora appeared here as a 'mutable immobile': an infinitely varying, un-inscribable object, out of reach and intangible in the atmosphere. The phenomenon's apparent indescribability caused problems for the 1881 International Polar Year programme, dependent on written communication and the 'virtual witnessing' of objects situated in an inaccessible area of the globe. What could direct observation yield that studying the traces of the aurora, naturalistic images and schematic reproductions, could not? How was the embodied witnessing experience and the aurora's imaginative potency folded into understandings of the phenomenon? And how did the outdoor space of the field pattern both techniques of observation and the resultant conceptions of the aurora? These are the questions that I will address while surveying attempts to make the aurora knowable through language, hand-drawings, sensory perception and analogue experimentation in the late nineteenth century, before the phenomenon could be captured adequately by photographic technologies.

22 February

Zeynep Oguz (University of Edinburgh)
Colliding grounds: earth politics in Turkey

Conversations around the Anthropocene in the humanities and social sciences have brought geology into the spotlight. From geopower and geohistory, to geontology and political geology, we have been witnessing a proliferation of analytical accounts on how geological forces and formations are entangled with sociopolitical histories and processes. In this talk, I move beyond a diagnosis of geo-political entanglement to think about how, when, and where such relations take place – the particular workings and consequences of geo-politics and geo-social relations as they operate in Turkey's Kurdistan region. Employing the metaphorical lens of tectonic collision, I scrutinize various manifestations of this entanglement, exploring the multifaceted ways in which geological formations such as oil seeps, mountains, and caves become focal points of nationalist territorialization and counter-insurgent weaponization orchestrated by the Turkish state. I also analyse the role of these geological formations in the formation of subjectivities, as people – geologists, workers, Kurdish peasants – collaborate with geological formations to disrupt colonial formations. I conclude with the broader implications of this story for decolonial and postcarbon earth politics.

7 March

Kathryn Yusoff on geosocial formations and the Anthropocene

This reading group session develops our understanding of recent analytic work with diverse geo- perspectives and explores Kathryn Yusoff's contributions to thought on the Anthropocene. We focus in particular on the approach to geosocial strata Yusoff describes in a 2017 special issue of Theory, Culture & Society on 'Geosocial Formations and the Anthropocene'. Readers might also find the editors' introduction helpful; and be interested in an earlier article that offers a valuable approach to forms of imagination in responding to climate.