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A Lecture by Julia Adeney Thomas: The Historian’s Task in the Anthropocene

Date: 5:00pm PDT March 19 Location: Albany Quadrangle, Smith Hall

  • Julia Adeney Thomas, Associate Professor History, University of Notre Dame
    Julia Adeney Thomas, Associate Professor History, University of Notre Dame
    Alan Thomas

Albany Quadrangle, Smith Hall

The Historian’s Task in the Anthropocene

If our future looks nothing like our past because of climate change, why bother with history?  That’s the central question of this talk.  Earth System scientists are saying that we’ve entered a new geological epoch, an unprecedented condition, they’re calling “the Anthropocene.” Thomas explores what this means scientifically and the challenge it poses to historical practice.  Then, turning to Japan, she will propose a new form of critical history as we move from modernity’s promise of freedom and abundance to the more modest goal of sustainability with decency.  

Julia Adeney THOMAS grew up in the coal country of southwest Virginia where the mountains now suffer from strip-mining and mountaintop removal.  Because of her love of those mountains, even as an intellectual historian she has retained a sharp interest in environmental and aesthetic questions. She writes on concepts of nature, political theory, historiography, and photography in Japan and comparatively. Her publications include  Reconfiguring Modernity: Concepts of Nature in Japanese Political Ideology (winner of the AHA John K. Fairbank Prize), Japan at Nature’s Edge and Rethinking Historical Distance as well as more than forty essays including “History and Biology in the Anthropocene” and “Photography, National Identity, and the ‘Cataract of Times’” in the American Historical Review.  Her current projects include Visualizing Fascism: The Twentieth-Century Rise of the Global Right (forthcoming, Duke), The Anthropocene (co-authored with geologists Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams, under contract, Polity) and The Historian’s Task in the Anthropocene (under contract with Princeton University Press.)  Educated at Princeton, Oxford, and Chicago, she taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Wisconsin–Madison before joining Notre Dame’s history department. 

This lecture is financially assisted by the Japan-US Friendship Commission and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies.  It is co-sponsored by the History department and Asian Studies program.

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History Department 503-768-7405


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