Reimagining sustainability science for life beyond the Anthropocene : multispecies conviviality, meaningful postmodernity and politics of ‘otherwise-than-power’

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: Sustainability Science (SS) is known for aspiration to support societies towards ecologically sound trajectories – a fabulously reflexive, ultimately critical and deeply self-aware field with a diverse community of highly skilled and creative researchers of noble goals, rigorous training and active engagement with ‘real life’ (so we claim, or at least aspire for). We try hard to alter extinction of life as we know it and contribute to a flourishing planet, yet go behind starling trends, “losing the battle to save the earth from ourselves” (Woodruff, 2012, p. 16). This thesis elaborates few directions that might help us catch up – engaging, marrying and divorcing with the concept of the Anthropocene. I explore what the rise (and vanishing or collapse) of this increasingly dominant rhetoric may signify and lead to within ecological trajectories – looking into its narratives (Aidosean, Promethean, Charitesian and Thanatosian), and suggesting that it is at their plexus where we can find the unique gift of the Anthropocene, a possibility to escape the ontotheology of enframing and to path beyond the Anthropocene illusion. Two overlapping trajectories for post-Anthropocene SS and politics – posthumanist and art-science I explore here for their striking promises and no less curious dangers. While posthumanist ideas are yet carefully considered by mainstream SS and my job is to offer them some more welcoming applause, witty invite and approbation (through exploration of how transcorporeality, posthumanist ecological community, multispecies conviviality, etc. could contribute to a post-Anthropocene SS and politics), the art-science initiatives for sustainability are greeted with great fervour, making second task more interesting – to explore how different relationships of art and science may lead us in most diverse directions – from (possibly) speeding up the ecocide (through attempting to harness arts for even better, yet increasingly surreal grip on reality), hinging their transformational potential (by reducing art to creativity or aesthetics) or helping us live out of the Anthropocene illusion into more liveable places around the planet (relearning to appreciate the openness of life, preparing for the worlds that come, along with less exquisite elaborations like transdisciplinary experiments). I suggest that posthumanist perspectives together with art-science may work as a politics of otherwise-than-power, nourishing multispecies conviviality for life beyond the Anthropocene, and with hope for a Meaningful Postmodernity, envisioned by Iain Thomson through Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of art. The thesis comes to its last pages with preliminary suggestions on how insights might benefit SS education and inspire further explorations.

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