History of Science Seminars: Ambient Thickness: On the Atmospheric Materiality of the Anthropocene


Thursday, February 8, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Science Center Rm. 469, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA
Photo of Gaston Gordillo

Gastón Gordillo,
Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia

"Ambient Thickness: On the Atmospheric Materiality of the Anthropocene"

Abstract: In the humanities, concepts such as “place” and “territory” help us account for the social-historical nature of space; but these are anthropocentric concepts that are unable to explain those spatial dimensions that are indifferent to how humans experience them, such as the intensification of weather events associated with climate change. Drawing from my fieldwork about deforestation by agribusiness in northern Argentina, I propose to analyze the shifting atmospheres affected by environmental disruptions through the concept of “ambient thickness”: i.e. the ambient intensities that in the form of heat, droughts, or wind affect human practice and sensory experience. Attentiveness to how local people are affected by, and respond to, shifting levels of ambient thickness, I argue, can help us appreciate the often elusive, ever-shifting but palpable materiality of the spatial-environmental transformations and turbulences that define “the Anthropocene.”

See also: Departmental SeminarScience, Technology, & Society,History of Biology,  More ▼