We are Earthlings – Anthropology in the Anthropocene

  • Date: Apr 27, 2023
  • Time: 05:00 PM - 06:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Christoph Antweiler, University Bonn
  • Speaker Christoph Antweiler born in 1956, is an cultural anthropologist and Senior Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the Institute of Oriental and Asian Studies at the University of Bonn, Germany. He studied geology and palaeontology (Diploma) and then cultural anthropology (Ph.D.) in Cologne. His main research fields are cognition, local knowledge, urban culture, ethnicity and anthropogenic ecological change. His main theoretical interests are socio-cultural evolution, human universals and vernacular cosmopolitanism. His main research region is Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia. Among his book publications are: Was ist den Menschen gemeinsam? (Darmstadt: WBG, 22012), Inclusive Humanism. Anthropological Basics for a Realistic Cosmopolitanism (Taipei: National Taiwan University Press, 2012), Our Common Denominator. Human Universals Revisited (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books 2016, pb 2018) and recently Anthropology in the Anthropocene (in German, Darmstadt: WBG, 2022). Antweiler is a member of the Academia Europaea (London).
  • Location: Zoom: https://eu01web.zoom.us/j/61683259842
  • Host: Department Structural Changes of the Technosphere
  • Contact: schwab@gea.mpg.de
 We are Earthlings – Anthropology in the Anthropocene


This presentation argues for the usefulness of the concept Anthropocene, but against the nowadays widespread undifferentiated use of the term as a buzzword. The Anthropocene means more than human-induced climate change, both factually and conceptually. The Anthropocene is both a geologically based indicator of the new state of the geosphere and a wake-up call in the face of our current multiple environmental planetary crisis.

My aim is to clarify some conceptual issues related to planetary problems and planetary thinking. To this end, I first present for discussion a differentiation into four concepts of the Anthropocene that can be analytically separated. This is flanked by a distinction of two forms of human agency. I argue that the Anthropocene is suitable for bringing together central insights of a truly evolutionary anthropology. Diachronically, the concept of the Anthropocene motivates us to think natural history and cultural history together. Models of social evolution as a long-term history of societies would have to be interwoven with models of natural history in the form of coevolutionary theories. In particular, concepts of niche construction can make an important synthesising as well as differentiating contribution.

In political terms, the Anthropocene implies a specific form of “Gesellschaftskritik”. With regard to a necessary coordination and cooperation of cultures to deal with planetary problems, I discuss the urgency of an ecologically informed cosmopolitanism. As a mega- and macro-phenomenon in time and space, the Anthropocene forms a challenge for the human sciences, i.e. for all anthropologies. The Anthropocene calls for a geo-biologically informed anthropology.

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