HOTB2020 Panel 6.3: Anthropocene Ethics, Anthropocene Materialisms



Panel 6.3: Anthropocene Ethics, Anthropocene Materialisms

“Affectsphere as an Ecosphere: Thoreau, von Üexkull, and the Anthropocene of Care”

Dong Yang (University of Georgia)

“Nihilism and Bravery”

Nathan Schmidt (Indiana University Bloomington)

“Teaching Environmental Ethics with Fünf Freunde [Five Friends] (2012) and Five on Kirrin Island Again (1947)”

Fazila Derya Agis (Independent Scholar)

“‘There’s No More Nature’: Beckett and New Materialisms”

Sean Collins (University of Utah)



Q & A

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5 replies
  1. Matt Morgenstern says:

    Hi Dong, that was a very interesting and thought-provoking discussion of Thoreau’s work, as well as its possible ties between the environment and affect. I am curious, though, about a few things:

    1. What is the lens of “affect” you’re using here? Is it via a D/G, Brian Massumi, Charles Altieri, and/or Silvan Thomkins school? Or is it something from New Materialism, as your interest in Thoreau, for example, strongly beckons to Jane Bennet’s Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things? I am a little confused by the “affectsphere” idea, at least per the theoretical lens you lay out at the beginning of the presentation.

    2. I’m curious what your thoughts are about Thoreau’s language in the selections you provided. Though you seem to argue for his idea of a “nonhuman environment” per a “vitalist” lens, Thoreau ultimately seems to reinforce anthropogenic (and gendered) conceptions of the environment as the basis for an intersubjective connection, even if, later on in his life, he advocated a “respectful” distance from it. I may have misunderstood your focus, but is the claim, then, that we arrive at an “Anthropocene of Care” for the environment only through “mildly humanizing” it, reinforcing anthropocentrism and anthropogenic ideals for conceiving of the environment as opposed to, say, pursuing the OOO of Timothy Morton or something akin to Bennett’s work? Just curious what your thoughts are, especially as many theorists, such as Donna Harraway, Anna Tsing (as discussed by Trang Dong in her presentation on ecological attunement), and Rosi Braidotti, have advocated a move away from may be a “mild humanism”?


  2. Nathan Schmidt says:

    Hello friends,
    Many thanks to those of you who had the patience to just sit and watch me read to you. If it gets boring I heartily recommend looking for you favorite places on the map of Middle Earth behind me, or watching for the bug that flew by while I was recording. And thanks to my fellow panelists, whose talks I really look forward to viewing!
    What I have tried to offer is a much-condensed version of a longer idea, so if anything seems to fly by too fast, rest assured I have more to say about it :). Since I have the opportunity to ask questions of you, I have a couple:
    First, what do you think about the relationship between nihilism and concepts like “climate pessimism” or “climate despair”? In my talk, I feel like I am conflating nihilism and despair to a degree. Is this fair? Does the definition of nihilism need more clarity?
    How do you feel about the whole forgiveness thing at the end? I’m afraid it may seem counter-intuitive or like a retreat back into a more old-school humanism. I am trying to define it in a really particular way, but if this doesn’t quite get through or seems too easy I would love to know.
    Looking forward to engaging with you all,

    – Nathan

  3. Beatriz Revelles Benavente says:

    My question goes to Sean Collins. First of all, thank you very much for your connection between Beckett and the new materialisms, I have enjoyed a lot the relationship between literature and new materialisms. I do agree that Beckett has a lot to offer to new materialist thought, especially the blending between spacetime offered and the materiality of his use of language. Nevertheless, I have a doubt regarding “the end of nature”. Wouldn’t this “end of nature” be a telealogical movement itself? As far as I understand, new materialisms is precisely about the relationality (as you mention at some point in your paper), so relationally speaking there is not an end of something that does not pre-exist to the relation. Also, I was wondering if you have thought of including feminist new materialisms to your reading as well:
    Specifically, I was wondering how would Haraway’s “naturecultures” fit into your reading? Or Vicky Kirby’s “Quantum Anthropologies” in which she reads Saussure, Foucault, Derrida and new materialisms together to find out that “There is nothing beyond nature”.

    Again, thank you so much for your paper!

  4. Fazila Derya AGIS says:

    Thanks to all who watched my presentation. In my presentation, I mention that there are several rights to life. These are the following: (a) the ethical right to life, as no experiments on various species should be conducted without any permissions; (b) the legal right to life, since all the creatures’ lives must be protected against murders and extinction; and (c) the social right to life, as creatures should have to keep their social relationships for the protection of nature as the citizens of the same planet.

  5. Fazila Derya AGIS says:

    Besides, I pronounced “threaten” (verb, simple present tense, third-person-plural) in an Australian manner (see this: “How to pronounce threaten in Australian English (1 out of 69)”. n.d. Available at:; moreover, I wrote “etc” instead of “etc.” in a British manner (see that: Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. n.d. “etc.” Available at; I referred to the concept of diversity by using different ways to pronounce and write. I also underline the importance of the concept of species diversity, since all the animals and plants try to communicate with humans via their own languages sometimes.

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