Call for Posts: Ecological Times

Søby Brunkulslejer, Danmark. Photo by Colin Hoag for the Brown Coal Research Team (AURA: Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene).

Ecological processes unfold in unstable coordination. The phenology of a species might come into alignment with the seasonal availability of a food source, say, but disturbance, shifting environmental conditions, and system feedbacks mean that these alignments are always tentative—even in the most tightly coupled, bounded ecosystems. Somewhere between machinic and haphazard, ecosystems are at once rule-bound and surprising. Certain attempts by states, capitalists, and others to increase regularity and predictability in environments have destroyed ecosystem function by imposing a temporally configured vision of nature-as-factory in service of Universal Man. Moreover, they have suppressed diverse human forms of relating to the environment that might challenge such ecological Taylorism. What can environmental anthropology—with its sensibility for the historically shifting conditions of both the materiality of environments and their meaning—teach us about the temporality of more-than-human worlds? This thematic thread calls for temporal thinking on more-than-human coordination, dissolution, and collapse.

Some potential directions include:

  1. Coordination, Dissolution, and Collapse: How do varied cultural commitments to time manifest in the environment? What spatial relationships emerge—between humans and non-humans, humans and humans, etc.—from these different temporal imaginaries? What happens when temporal commitments are no longer tenable, whether by extinctions, climate changes, or political forces?
  2. Cycle and Arrow: Stephen Jay Gould’s 1987 book, Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle famously outlined the stakes of “deep time” for geological science. What directionalities of ecological time do we find in our anthropological fieldsites? How might these catalyze new ways of figuring the environment and humans’ relationship to it?
  3. Polyrhythm: For all the talk about the Anthropocene and its temporal implications regarding humans as agents in geologic time, there is surprisingly little attention to other temporal forms than the breathlessly large. What of seasonality or diurnality? What are the multiple durations, rhythms, or other temporal patterns needed to conceive of our partially unraveling planet? How do various temporal regimes co-exist or compete with each other?

This is an open call, meaning that the series will remain open indefinitely. Submissions can take the form of 1,500-3,000-word essays; short photo and video essays; poetry and experimental prose; audio recordings; and other forms in consultation with the editors. Please indicate your interest or make inquiries by email to the Engagement co-editors:

Colin Hoag: choag@smith.edu
Theresa Miller: theresalmiller@gmail.com
Chitra Venkataramani: cvenkataramani@gmail.com