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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 held fortnightly on Thursdays on Zoom, meeting on the odd weeks of term. All are welcome!

Organised by Claire Oliver and Richard Staley.

Easter Term 2021

29 April at 1pm

Andreas Malm on his forthcoming book with the Zetkin Collective, White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism

From Sweden to Spain, Poland to the US, Germany to Brazil, recent years have witnessed a surging far right at just the moment of intensifying climate breakdown. This far right tends to deny the existence of any climate crisis and insist on maximum production and consumption of fossil fuels and other climate-destroying resources. At the same time, it positions itself as the defender of a racially defined nation – to all intents and purposes, the white nation. What are the historical sources of this configuration? The basis for this seminar is chapter 9 form the book White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism, by Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective, released by Verso in May. The chapter looks at some of the sources of this configuration, notably the imperial use of steam-power and its central place in nineteenth-century racism, and the articulation of race in the automobile in twentieth-century US. The history of the links between whiteness and fossil fuels remains to be explored in depth. But scratching the surface suggests that the ongoing surge of an anti-climate, pro-fossil-fuel far right is bringing deep historical forces to the fore.

13 May at 12noon

John Tresch, 'The Anthropocene as Cosmology'

Discussion texts:

  1. Szerszynski, Bronislaw. 'Gods of the Anthropocene: geo-spiritual formations in the Earth's new epoch.' Theory, Culture & Society 34, no. 2–3 (2017): 253–275.
  2. Arènes, Alexandra, Bruno Latour, and Jérôme Gaillardet. 'Giving depth to the surface: An exercise in the Gaia-graphy of critical zones.' The Anthropocene Review 5, no. 2 (2018): 120–135.
  3. Fontaine, Claire. 'Towards a Theory of Magic Materialism.' Estetica. studi e ricerche 9, no. 2 (2019): 585–590.