Biopolitics, the Ecology of Humanity, and the Anthropocene
The global pandemic forced many of us to slow down and scale down in our daily lives, but also to think about our routines and the impact these routines have on not only our lives, but our planet. We have become familiar with the impact human travel has had on the environment, as well as the importance of the environment and social structures which we have created for ourselves. Inspired, rather than hindered, by these new circumstances, we invite young scholars and early-stage researchers to join ERA – a space of academic disruption where horizontal alliances are forged, hierarchies from the old world do not matter, and new ideas are born.
Before the pandemic, we fought for grants to attend prestigious conferences and events, we tried to outsmart each other and we competed against one another in a publish or perish environment. ERA is a project which aims to foster transnational cooperatives between early stage researchers and build bridges between people, places, and institutions, instead of vying for grants, scholarships, and publications. We want to bring a new approach to academia by creating an inclusive space of encounters. The ERA conference last year had participants look into the past, and this year, we invite applicants to look at the present and consider the future as they ponder the possibilities and alternatives afforded to us by our current situation – i.e. the Coronavirus pandemic. This year’s ERA conference focuses on studying the relationship humans have to their constructed social environments as well as the planet in which they inhabit and act upon through biopolitics, the ecology of humanity, and the anthropocene.
Biopolitics and the ecology of humanity are important categories when delving into the relationship humanity has with itself and with the environment it has created – either social/political or natural. Biopolitics navigates the way in which biology impacts the politics of the modern world. Daniele Lorenzini recently wrote on the issue of biopolitics in the time of the Coronavirus. A primary concern of his is that this notion of biopolitical power has been a crucial part of our “historical form of subjectivity for at least two centuries” (Lorenzini, ‘Biopolitics in the Time of the Coronavirus,’ 2020). How has the pandemic brought these historical forms of subjectivity to light? How has it contributed to the current structures in place?
In the ecology of humanity the focus shifts from social constructs that humanity has impeded upon itself, to the relationship humans have with nature and the environment. In particular, this section focuses on the importance of this relationship humanity has to the natural world. The impact nature has on human health and wellbeing, on the attitudes towards nature, and the benefits and hazards humans have to wildlife – as described by Masashi Soga and Kevin J. Gaston in ‘The ecology of human-nature interactions’ (2020). What are these impacts? How can they be studied and viewed in a cross-disciplinary fashion? How important is nature to mental health?
As each section focuses on humanity and its socio-political situations and the important relationship humans have with the environment, the final section of this conference then builds a bridge between these two areas – the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is an unofficial geologic title that is described by the National Geographic as being “the most recent period in Earth’s history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystem” (2019). This unofficial term is contested by those who claim that we still remain in the Holocene. However, this unofficial term aids in establishing that humanity has had a great impact on the environment in which it resides. From global warming, to habitat destruction, to ocean acidification, to plastic pollution – humans undeniably have had a significant impact on this planet. Are we in the anthropocene? How else can humans impact the planet? Is humanities impact inherently negative?
In these fields there is a central focus on humanity and the constructs of their own design. We welcome papers that embrace not only the political, scientific, and anthropological approaches, but also the humanist ones.