Renewing Sustainability Thinking in Light of the Anthropocene: Exploring the Potentials of STS

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentations (poster etc.)Research

Jeremias Herberg - presenter

When humans dominate the world as a geological force, as suggested by the diagnosis of an “Anthropocene”, we witness the ecological consequences of the long criticized foundations of modern thought; most profoundly the subject-object distinction. As such, the “Anthropocene” challenges fundamental assumptions of sustainability thinking more generally.

In this panel, we regard the “Anthropocene” and related debates as triggering points for a renewal of sustainability thinking. In particular, we see an opportunity for STS scholarship to inspire more reflexive approaches towards the ecological effects of modern thought. To explore the potential of STS for sustainability thinking in light of the “Anthropocene”, we propose three sets of questions that cut across recent STS debates:

First, sustainability thinking often relies on conventional social theories that usually lack an ontological conception of human/non-human relationships and employ anthropomorphist, technicist, or otherwise modernist conceptions of nature. What can sustainability thinking learn from STS’s insights into the co-constitution of science and the world?
Second, the “Anthropocene” also forwards new controversies within STS. Posthumanist thinkers for instance criticize constructivist schools of thought for being anthropocentric, unethical, or contradictory. Is the ecological condition that motivates sustainability thinking really a theoretical imperative in favor of realism? What benefits have constructivist traditions?
Third, STS may elucidate theory-practice relationships. Sustainability politics promote theories, and theories have politics as, for instance, in the systems thinking of cybernetics. Can STS unravel the performativity of sustainability debates by following the actor, or otherwise reconfigure the crisscrossing relationships determining the ecological condition?

Addressing these questions, we invite papers that discuss the “Anthropocene” as a conceptual challenge for sustainability thinking. Specifically, we welcome diverging schools of thought, and work on ecology, geo-engineering, political movements, or multi-species ethnography.

Convened by Dr. Basil Bornemann & Jeremias Herberg


40th Annual Meeting of The Society for Social Studies of Science - 4S 2015: Open Panel


Denver, United States

Event: Conference