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Gabriele Dürbeck

Abstract

The Anthropocene concept originates from earth system sciences and conceptualizes humanity as a planetary geophysical force. It links current action-oriented time horizons to Earth historical deep time and implies non-separability of natures-cultures. The Anthropocene concept has resonated in debates in natural and social sciences, the humanities and the broader public, serving as an inter- and transdisciplinary bridging concept. Based on an analysis of numerous texts from multiple scientific disciplines and media, this contribution distinguishes five narratives of the Anthropocene: the disaster narrative, the court narrative, the Great Transformation narrative, the (bio-)technological and the interdependence narrative. The five narratives articulate very different perspectives and experiences and transport divergent political, economic, ethical and anthropological values and interests; this is also shown in alternative conceptualizations such as Eurocene, Technocene, Capitalocene or Plantationocene. The analysis reveals that the narratives share significant structural characteristics concerning story, plot, protagonists, spatial and temporal structure and action-oriented emplotment which together can be referred to a meta-narrative of the Anthropocene. Since the partly overlapping, partly contradictory narratives compete for legitimation and dominance in science and the broader public, the findings raise the question whether this struggle will stabilize or undermine the Anthropocene meta-narrative in the long run.

Open access

Gabriele Dürbeck, Wolf-Andreas Liebert and Thomas Metten