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Climate [Political and Natural]

The concept of climate has origins that date back to Greek and Roman philosophical and medical texts from Hippocrates to Epicurus. Throughout the early modern period, climate remained a decisive factor in understanding natural philosophy, as well as the evolution of knowledge. During this time period, climate usually referred to the air, waters, and land, and included discussions of how these elements influence the natural world and human society. With the emergence of modernity, the concept of climate came to incorporate phenomena including carbon-fueled industrialization, urbanization, and transnational corporations. This group investigates the implications of such phenomena for our understandings of gender and sexuality, colonial projects and expeditions, racialization and ethnic differences, class, and the longevity of the biosphere. It also considers the ways in which climates inform how we think in the first place. This category constructs a bridge between Enlightenment-era concepts, theories of climate, and contemporary debates regarding climate change and the Anthropocene.

The people who headed this group in 2017 are Sara GrossmanMatthew Handelman, Kyle Powys White, Nathaniel Wolloch, and Sam White.  

Group Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

Below you will find an explore button that takes you to all fo the group's research and then their featured items.

Featured Items

Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the poor

Explores the representational challenges posed by environmental catastrophes that unfold incrementally, in a less spectacular, less visible way than dramatic events. Nixon presents examples of writers doing the conceptual work of making "slow violence" such as climate change more visible.

A Temperate Empire: Making Climate Change in Early America

European encountered climates in northern North America that were harsher and more variable than their notions about weather and geography led them to expect. In A Temperate Empire, Anya Zilberstein reveals how colonial conditions generated revealing controversies about climate and climatic change on both sides of the Atlantic. Drawing on well-selected sources and examples from eighteenth-century New England and Nova Scotia, the author explores evolving discussions about climate, geography, and race in the Atlantic world.

Vibrant Matter: A political ecology of Things

Quickly becoming a classic, Bennett's book asks (among other things) how the term "materialism" came to be synonymous with Marx's notion of materiality, "as economic structures and exchanges that provoke many other events." She asks, "Why did Foucault’s concern with ‘bodies and pleasures’ or Deleuze’s and Guattari’s interest in ‘machinic assemblages’ not count as materialist?" 

The Climate of History: Four Theses

This article argues that the thesis of the Anthropocene offers grounds for a reconciliation between human history and natural history, abolishing the Enlightenment ideology of history as the progressive conquest of nature by Man. Drawing on research in biology, ecology, postcolonial theory, and Marxism, Chakrabarty recuperates the category of the human species in respect to climate change, not so as to abolish social and political distinctions among humans but rather in order to consider the way in which climate change demands a planetary perspective on history. Chakrabarty's article has served as a touchstone for a number of projects wishing to reconsider the relations among the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences and has suggested that certain aspects of Enlightenment universalism might still find purchase in contemporary analyses.