This Podcast is part of our Rupture, Crisis, Transformation series drawn from the conference of the same name held at Birkbeck, University of London in November 2014, offering new perspectives on American Studies. It is the paper given by Pieter Vermeulen.
This presentation was followed by a panel discussion in which Pieter was Joined by Georgiana Banita.
Pieter’s paper explores the institutional challenges facing American studies by interrogating two of the key figures of the anthropocene imagination as it is taking shape in American culture – the future archeologist and the future historian.
If the former will be left to read mankind’s geological footprint after its extinction, the latter will (less dramatically) chronicle historical errors that will turn out not to have been fatal. These figures recur in contemporary American fiction (from Teju Cole’s Open City to Max Brooks’s World War Z), but also in, for instance, historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s The Collapse of Western Civilization. I show how these figures convey anxieties and desires unleashed by the radical reorganization of knowledge production in the present and how they point to the crucial role of narrative in apprehending the anthropocene: not as a device to impose meaning, but, as a way of inhabiting the present as the object of a future memory.
The ‘Rupture, Crisis, Transformation’ series was produced by Jo Barratt with Lucy Bradley