Difference in the Anthropocene: Indigenous Environmentalism in the Face of Settler Colonialism

Discard Studies

By Alex Zahara

This was originally posted on the Boundaries of The Human in the Age of the Life Sciences Blog as a response to a lecture given by Kyle Powys Whyte at Penn State, entitled ‘ Living Our Ancestors’ Dystopia: Indigenous Peoples, Conservation, and the Anthropocene.’ Whyte’s work highlights Anishinaabek conservation practices and experiences, while cautioning against the supposed ‘universalism’ that permeates much of the Anthropocene literature.

globaia-great_accelleration_hirez-1024x574 The “universal” measures of the Anthropocene.

A few months ago, I attended a departmental seminar on the Anthropocene, where the presenter spoke of Donna Haraway’s (2015) ‘plantationocene’ hypothesis. One of the implications of this hypothesis is that the stratigrapher’s ‘golden spike’ of the Anthropocene might appropriately be placed within the mass environmental changes and social injustices associated with colonization. The highly interdisciplinary and (not surprisingly) almost exclusively white group of attendees were largely resistant to the idea—not because they disagreed that colonization resulted in mass environmental change and injustice, but because this proposition challenged…

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