Placing the Anthropos in Anthropocene



n this article, we review the place of “the human” in influential approaches to the Anthropocene to expose the diverse conceptualizations of humanity and human futures. First, we synthesize current research on humans as landscape modifiers across space and time, making a key distinction between the “old Anthropocene” (beginning with human food production) and the “new Anthropocene” (coinciding with the start of the Industrial Revolution). Second, we engage critical perspectives on the structuring effects of capitalist and colonialist systems—now periodized as the Capitalocene and Plantationocene, respectively—that have driven environmental degradation and human inequality over the past half-millennium. In the third section, we introduce alternative perspectives from anthropological and ethnographic research that confront the socioecological disruptions of capitalism and colonialism, drawing on indigenous Amazonian perspectives that have a more capacious understanding of the human—including species other than Homo sapiens. Finally, to conclude, we extend our analysis to a broader suite of visions for building socially and environmentally just futures captured in the framework of the pluriverse, which stands in strong contrast with the techno-modernist aspirations for the next stage in which humans become separated from arth, in space. In recognizing these varied understandings of humanity, we hope to call attention to the diverse possibilities for human futures beyond the Anthropocene.

Personal Notes: Putting into perspective the Anthropos (men) in its relationship to the earth, and writing from and anthropological perspective, Kawa reflects on the human-earth relationship and its implications, making this reading a great addition to my repertory of anthropological references for my research.

Hoele, J. and Kawa, N. Placing the Anthropos in Anthropocene. (2019). Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Volume 111, 2021. Issue 3: The Anthropocene.