Fisher Center


Gender, Climate, and the Anthropocene

Since atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen popularized the term in 2000, the “anthropocene” has become a political marker, designating the epoch in which human actions began to have geologic impact. Climate change, with its potentially catastrophic consequences for earthly life, is posing the question of the anthropocene with increasing urgency. For many scholars and activists, the idea of the “anthropocene” necessarily explodes disciplinary boundaries, demonstrating the ways these boundaries themselves may be implicated in the production and maintenance of systems with devastating planetary impact. Colonization, urbanization, and industrialization effect changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, oceans, and soils. They result in habitat loss, mass extinctions, and species invasions. Geological, political, and economic histories are intertwined and thus require practices of knowledge attuned to complexity.

For 2015-2016, the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men will investigate the gendered dimensions of the anthropocene. With its direct announcement of “anthro,” is the concept of the “anthropocene” a vehicle for gender analysis? In what ways does patriarchy continue to function in the interior of the anthropocene? Does the concept challenge or reinforce metaphors of a feminine earth penetrated and abuse by masculine technologies, sciences, and ideologies? How do gendered inequalities support the systems driving climate change and how could attending to these and other inequalities be part of a climate politics?

Does the anthropocene provide a productive way for approaching our planetary future? What bodies, capacities, and subjectivities are associated with what visions of the future? In artistic and literary engagements with the anthropocene (such as speculative fiction, afro-futurism, young adult dystopias), how do stabilizations and destabilization of gender inflect visions of embodiment, capacity, futurity, and limits?  What dark ecologies and sacrifice zones shape inequality in the anthropocene? What specific patterns of raced, gendered, and disqualified life are already being inscribed through the geopolitics of the anthropocene to naturalize extinction, demarcate permissible violence, and authorize expropriation? How do waste, depletion, and mass extinction reconfigure conceptions and experiences of gender tied to the reproduction of the species? How do contemporary survivalism, neo-primitivism, and neo-feudalism mirror or repeat the practices of abandonment, enclosure, and fortification characteristic of the elite responses to the climate crisis?

Over the course of the year, we will consider where we are geologically as a species. How are our surroundings, our environments, our living spaces, adapting to us or even fighting back? What is the world that the species is creating? What visions of habitation, mobility, adaptation, and resilience does the anthropocene incite and how are these being imagined in art, architecture, universal design, environmental aesthetics, and urban planning under the conditions of a changing climate?

We also want to raise up the movements and creative responses crucial to politics in the anthropocene. What forms of feminist materialism, political economy, and political ecology are necessary for struggles in the anthropocene? How do culturally and historically specific understandings of gender enable forms of opposition to extractivism, settler colonialism, and land expropriation? How are international connections being forged in the infrastructure battles associated with fracking and fossil fuels? More specifically, how are victories in one location (France has banned fracking) accompanied by intensified exploitation elsewhere (Algeria is a new site of shale gas extraction and anti-fracking activism)? Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ location on Seneca Lake gives us a unique perspective: Fractivists have achieved a fracking ban in New York State, while the lake itself continues to be the site of an intense struggle against LPG and methane storage. Consequently, the Fisher Center is interested in highlighting local activism as well as mapping the global terrain of the current struggle for climate justice.

Fall 2015

September 23

Elizabeth Povinelli

7:00 p.m., Fisher Center, Demarest Hall 212

November 4

Frederic Neyrat

7:00 p.m., Fisher Center, Demarest Hall 212

November 11

Not An Art Collective Lecture

7:00 p.m., Fisher Center, Demarest Hall 212


The Fisher Center brings together faculty, students, and experts in gender-related fields in the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences to foster mutual understanding and social justice in contemporary society.

Building upon their long-held commitment to interdisciplinary liberal arts education for men and women, both separately and together, Hobart and William Smith Colleges established (in 1998) the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men to support curricular, programmatic, and scholarly projects which address the question:

How do we more nearly realize, through our educational program, scholarship, and presence in the larger community, our democratic ideals of equity, mutual respect, and common interest in relations between men and women?