Feeling the Anthropocene: Air, Rock, Flesh

 Symposium: University of Edinburgh

This symposium took place on Friday 28 November 2014

Not only has the Earth become sensitive to the activities of humans, or rather certain strata of humanity, but increasingly, ways of life­—human and more-than-human alike—under late capitalism have become sensitive to Earth forces. How do we sense the Anthropocene? What might a politics that feels the Earth look like? What does it mean that the Earth feels us? The symposium will examine such questions—and others—through three elements that tie life together: air, rock, and flesh.

Introduction <mp3>

Feeling the Anthropocene | Franklin Ginn <mp3>


Museo Aero Solar


Bronislaw Szerszynski  & Sasha Engelmann |  Lancaster University & Oxford University | Life in the open air” <mp3>


Standing stone, Machrie Moor, Aran, by Erskine Beveridge 1884


Ilana Halperin | Artist  | “Learning to read rocks” <mp3>


Hookworm ova


Jamie Lorimer  | Oxford University | “Probiotic political ecologies and the futures of life” <mp3>



Discussants | Franklin Ginn (Geography), Craig Martin (ECA), Emily Brady (Geography), David Farrier (English),  Audra Mitchell (Politics), Andrew Patrizio (ECA), Michelle Bastian (ECA), Chair | Michael Northcott (Divinity)


Background is here. And the agenda.

The symposium was organised by Franklin Ginn and the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network and the Ancestral Time project.



Supported by the

ahrc LOGO


Speaker biographies

Bronislaw Szerszynski <www> is Head of Department at the Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, UK, where he also works at the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change (CSEC). His research places contemporary changes in the relationship between humans, environment and technology in the longer perspective of human and planetary history, drawing on social theory, qualitative sociological research, geophilosophy and the environmental humanities. Current topics of interest include climate geoengineering and the social and philosophical implications of the Anthropocene. He is author of Nature, Technology and the Sacred (2005), and co-editor of Risk, Environment and Modernity (1996) Re-Ordering Nature: Theology, Society and the New Genetics (2003) and Nature Performed: Environment, Culture and Performance (2003). He also guest-edited special double issues of Ecotheology on ‘Ecotheology and Postmodernity’, (2004), and Theory Culture and Society (2010, with John Urry) on ‘Changing Climates’.

Ilana Halperin <www> is an artist, originally from New York, and currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Her work has featured in solo exhibitions worldwide including National Museum of Scotland, Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité and Artists Space in New York. Halperin’s creative output focuses upon geological activity and phenomena in an engagement with our understanding of time. Her approach combines fieldwork in diverse locations: Hawaii, Iceland, France, Japan and in museums, archives and laboratories with an active studio-based practice. In the development of new ideas, she has had the honour and pleasure of working with organisations such as The Global Volcanism Program, the British Geological Survey and Earthwatch. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Inaugural Artist Fellowship at National Museums Scotland, a British Council Darwin Now Award and an Alchemy Fellowship at Manchester Museum. She is the Artist-Curator of the geology collection for the new Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, in the birthplace of Charles Darwin. Schering Stiftung, Berlin have recently published a monograph of her work entitled Neue Landmasse/ New Landmass. Ilana has a deep love of geology and shares her birthday with the Eldfell volcano in Iceland.

Jamie Lorimer <www> is an environmental geographer, whose research has explored the geographies of Nature, focusing on the implications of the Anthropocene for contemporary environmental thought and practice. This work has been developed through three substantial research projects. The most recent of which explored the history, politics and geographies of rewilding. This is an emerging paradigm for wildlife conservation, with important implications for how we conceive and govern the environment. This project focused on the Oostvaardersplassen and Heck cattle in the Netherlands. Prior research examined the histories, geographies, imagery and politics of Asian elephant conservation in Sri Lanka. Jamie’s PhD and post-doctoral research traced the arrival of biodiversity as an organising concept for UK wildlife conservation. His current research switches scales to explore comparable developments in the governance of the microbiome – focusing initially on the rise of probiotic modes of managing human and environmental health. His research monograph, entitled Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature will be published by the University of Minnesota Press in Spring 2015.

Sasha Engelmann <www>, a native of Los Angeles, holds degrees from Stanford University in Earth Systems and English and French Literatures. Sasha’s academic work lies at the intersection of climate science, contemporary art and spatial theory, and her recent writing concerns the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of air and atmosphere. For the past year she has worked closely with the studio of Tomás Saraceno in Berlin, especially on the concept of Cloud Cities and the launching of solar balloons. She is a Clarendon Scholar currently pursuing a DPhil in Geography and Environment at Oxford.