Freedom and the Violence of Climate Change

"Rhode", Gowanus Waters Series. Photo courtesy of Steven Hirsch

Elisabeth Anker of The George Washington University, Department of American Studies will offer different political imaginaries that repudiate the ideal of freedom as it has been understood in much Anglo-American politics — freedom defined as sovereign individualism, as unbound agency, and as private ownership of nature – and argue that this thinking is partly accountable for the geological violence that marks the anthropocene. Free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the Miller-Worley Center for the Environment and Mount Holyoke Science Center and the Department of Politics. 

The anthropocene is often defined as the era of human mastery over the earth, where humans have come to shape climate, geology, and time itself to terrifying and destructive effect. Yet one of the causes of the anthropocene's climate violence is the very idea of human mastery, or more precisely the belief that freedom equals human mastery over nature.

The ideal of freedom as it has been understood in much Anglo-American politics — freedom defined as sovereign individualism, as unbound agency, and as private ownership of nature — is partly accountable for the geological violence that marks the anthropocene. Different visions of freedom might be crucial for reshaping political imaginaries toward slowing ecological destruction. By placing scientific research on gut microbiota and DNA in dialogue with political theories of agency, I offer different political imaginaries that repudiate individualism to envision free action not limited to the self-determining human that can master nature.