time and the anthropocene; theory and placement

I keep a file of “fieldnotes” (the anthropologist’s source of data) that are really just random ideas that occur to me in the writing that goes alongside this project.  Usually, I date them and give the time and place in which they occurred to me.  Here’s today’s, as well as a thought about this practice I have of locating my inspirations in time and space:

October 26, 2014, Twin Springs Road – time and the anthropocene; theory and placement

It’s 5:22am Sunday morning.  We are heading for the midpoint between Equinox and Solstice that is Halloween on this planet—at least, in those parts that consider this cosmological point in those terms—rounding its sun, hurtling through the cosmos.  It’s unseasonably warm (meaning it will be in the 60s today, though it is a clear and quiet and dark 32F right now, perfect writing time and weather). Good morning!

[The above is written as a placing, contextualizing introduction to what comes after this, but in the meantime, something else intervenes, another thought climbs on top of this one and asks for attention: is my desire to date and name and place the things I write in this document an attempt to locate and specify my “theory” in response to the de-specifying, de-contextualizing mode of “theory” and of deep time imaginations?   Is my determination that these little sparks of thinking be placed and remembered as arising in moments along the linear path toward the book I am now writing a demand on myself to remember one place among billions in one moment among an infinite number?   It might be that I am trying to provincialize all the Big Objects—species, humanness, ontology, time, space—that are at the center of my project but that my training insists come from somewhere, need to be placed and given specificity, located in their temporal, racialized, spatial, gendered, intimate, affective moments.  This is the other kind of work that “context” does or can do].

Anyway, here’s the original thought that got me to open this up: if the spatial turn in social theory is a response to the “end of history” proclaimed by Latour and others, then thinking through the anthropocene is a reintroduction of time to social theory in a new way.  The “anthropocene” is anticipatory — that is, it names a series of events and developments in a period of human time that we imagine may one day be seen in the geological record.  The nomination of a new geological era imagines a future in which our present is a deep past, puzzled over by future geologists or exo-geologists. It is, in short, as invested in an imagination of deep future time as are the deep time frames of space settlement advocates.   End of Deep Thought.

Now, on a different time scale and in response to a different set of arrangements altogether,  I have to go and write letters of recommendation.


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