Please join us for the next Science, Technology & Society Seminar:Friday, February 9
Department of History
University of Virginia
“The First Extermination Event: Re-thinking the Sixth Extinction as the Necrocene.”
This talk argues that the contemporary Sixth Extinction Event is not the result of the Anthropocene, or humanity becoming a geological agent, but rather the Necrocene, or capitalism becoming an extinction event. The Necrocene – the New Epoch of Death-Necrosis – reveals how capitalism’s logic of “accumulation by extinction” has erased not just species, but peoples, cultures, and languages, a process that reached a planetary scale by the mid-Twentieth Century. By tracing the material dialectic of accumulation and extinction and its coevolution with a conceptual dialectic of risk and environment from the Eighteenth Century to Present, this talk shows how capitalism did not ignore environmental risk – it invented environmental risk and made it the central problem of its very survival. The history of Western environmentalism has been caught between two contradictory impulses. One has aided capitalism’s continued accumulation through a technocratic ethos of conservation. The other has embraced a misanthropic transcendentalism that argues it is the innate parasitic character of the human being itself that is driving ecological catastrophe. This dialectic produced both the scientific basis and ideological content of “planetary catastrophism.” Planetary catastrophism points to human nature as the agent of planetary destruction, obscuring who and what is responsible for the growing extinction crisis. But the First Extermination Event is something fundamentally different than the sixth iteration of a deep time bio-geological process. Only through awareness that it is global capitalist system of production, and not an undifferentiated “humanity,” can we begin to conceptualize what exactly this historical moment in the deep time of life entails.
Snacks and conversation to begin at 1:00. Josh Earle will handle your WebEx requests.