Ted Toadvine

When October 25, 2019, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Where 319 and 112 Walker Building

The prospect of climate disruption haunts contemporary culture and political debate today in a way that no environmental threat has before, and it is commonplace to hear climate change identified as the single most important challenge facing humanity. Is this prioritization of climate destabilization as the defining threat of recorded human history justified? Here I investigate the image of time underlying this apocalyptic narrative to show that it depends upon, and attempts to manage, the explosion of our horizons of time represented by “deep” geological timescales. On this basis, I explore a series of questions posed by such apocalyptic narratives: Does this image of time exhaust our possibilities for relating to the sublime dimensions of the deep past and far future? Does it skew our relation to the present? What investments or fears are expressed through this apocalyptic image, and what does it reveal about our responsiveness to and responsibility for the past, present, and future? I argue that, rather than owning our temporal responsibilities, apocalyptic narratives seek to liquidate our obligations to the past, obscure the singularity of the present, and exert absolute control over the future. I conclude with two alternative figures of temporal justice: Potawatomi philosopher Kyle Powys Whyte’s proposal of “time spiraling” as a living dialogue with our ancestors and descendants, and artist Roni Horn’s installation, Library of Water, in Stykkishólmur, Iceland.

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600