Geography UNC-Chapel Hill
For a decade, geography has been grappling with a proliferation of cenes: the Anthropocene, the Capitalocene, the Plantationocene. Through the theorization of each of these cenes, human impact on global ecologies is defined in epochs, paying particular attention to industrialization, the expansion of global capitalism, or changes in agriculture and land use practices. Cenes are segmented time, but time is also segmented through knowledge production that assigns people and places to different temporalities, through the demographic politics that extend some futures and cut others short, and through imperial infrastructures that intensify and naturalize disparities between colonizer and colonized. We argue that cenes themselves perpetuate a settler time, obscuring violence through the use of abstract epochs while denying Indigenous and Black ontologies and histories. As Kyle Whyte and others have shown, climate change discourse perpetuates its own colonial epistemologies. We ask: who gets to theorize global time and history, and who is “ethnographically detained”? Cene arguments are meant to generate a political orientation toward the world, reflected then in environmental policy. We contend that the politics around energy transition and a Green New Deal still centers whiteness, denying Indigenous and Black sovereignty and thus entrenches colonial capitalist practices on marginalized communities for yet another generation. To move beyond the cenes, we center Indigenous and Black Studies accounting of environments and history, letting these narratives ground our understanding of our histories and futures.