History of Knowledge

Seminar Series : :

Rethinking History in the Anthropocene
Special Meeting of the History of Knowledge Seminar Series @ Utrecht University

Date: Thursday 11 February 2021
Time: 9:00-17:30 (UTC+1)
Location: Online (Microsoft Teams) 

> Prof. Jürgen Renn (MPIWG, Berlin) (10:45-12:15 UTC+1)
> Prof. Deborah Coen (Yale University) (16:00-17:30 UTC+1)   

Since the year 2000, the Anthropocene concept has affected debates in almost every academic discipline, both within the humanities and social sciences, and has rapidly developed into an inter- and transdisciplinary object of research. At the same time, it has also undermined some of the distinctions that have long been the basis for these disciplines, especially for history – such as that between “nature” and “culture” and “geological” and “human”. Furthermore, while earlier conceptions of human agency, temporality and historical experience – all key to historical research – are being decentered, historians are called upon to create new big narratives linking the past and future to make sense of our present. 

Rather than debating histories of the Anthropocene, this symposium takes up the Anthropocene as a key challenge for all branches of history and historiography. It is concerned with exploring how the discipline of history should be rethought in and for the Anthropocene – and, vice versa, whether and if so, how new notions of historical thinking might be invoked to make sense of the Anthropocene. 

We welcome submissions of abstracts for talks that engage with these themes and address/bear upon any of the following central questions: 

  • Why and how to write history at a time of epochal rupture?  
  • What are the prospects and limits of historical knowledge and narratives for dealing with the Anthropocene? 
  • What does it mean to learn from history on a finite planet? What kinds of histories matter to dealing with a radically uncertain future? 
  • Whose pasts and historical experiences, and which temporalities and agencies, tend to be (de-)emphasized in the Anthropocene concept?  

The aim of the meeting is to stimulate exchange and discussion on history and the Anthropocene. We welcome submissions for short exploratory and/or work-in-progress talks (25 minutes, including questions). We particularly encourage submissions from current graduate students, women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups. 

Abstracts, including title, should be between 200 to 300 words, formatted in Microsoft Word, and double-spaced, using a regular size 12 font. All abstracts must be submitted to with ‘Rethinking History Submission’ in the headline.  

Submission deadline: 5 January 2021
Notification of acceptance: 11 January 2021 

It is also possible to attend (parts of) the meeting without presenting a talk. A link to the meeting will be circulated and published on our website once the final programme is ready.


 (c) Edward Burtynsky