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“Placing the Anthropocene: The Pacific Ocean in Planetary History”

April 25, 2019 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

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Featuring Gregory T. Cushman, Associate Professor of International Environmental History, University of Kansas

Moderated by Paul Kreitman, Assistant Professor of Japanese History, Columbia University

In its conventional form, the Anthropocene is a Eurocentric and terracentric concept that needs to be provincialized. What might a history of the Anthropocene look like if we place the Pacific Ocean and its surrounding territories at its center? This keynote presentation will examine each of the major proposed starting points for the Anthropocene and their purported causes from the perspective of the Pacific Ocean and its surrounding territories—from late Pleistocene overkill to the atoll nuclear tests of the twentieth century. East Asia, Australia, and the Americas and Pacific Islands have all played unheralded roles in several historical trends typically associated with European-driven expansion. In any case, we need to give careful attention to regional histories and their potential contribution to decentered global histories before making any firm decisions about the starting point, root causes, and potential meanings of this proposed “human epoch” of planetary history.


About the Speaker:

Gregory T. Cushman is Associate Professor of International Environmental History at the University of Kansas (USA). His 2013 book Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History (Cambridge University Press) won four international awards, including the Jerry Bentley Prize in World History from the American Historical Association. In 2018, it appeared in a revised Spanish translation (Instituto de Estudios Peruanos). He has published a range of articles in climate history, the history of Indigenous peoples, and history of science and technology. In 2015-17, he received a prestigious Carnegie Fellowship and residential fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich to research the historical foundations of the Anthropocene, which will result in two books: one on Debating the Anthropocene and another on the global history of humanity’s relationship with the lithosphere and mineral kingdom.


International Affairs Building, Room 918

No registration required.

For press inquiries, please contact Ariana King  ak4364@columbia.edu



April 25, 2019
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
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