Anthropogenesis: Rescue Genetics in the Anthropocene
Following Crutzen’s suggestion to rename the current epoch the “Anthropocene” in 2002, the term quickly became salient beyond the academy. Journalists repeatedly ask some version of the question, “What is the Anthropocene and are we in it?” while artists envisage an “accelerationist” aesthetics of time and space (Bratton, 2013) and entrepreneurs work on a clock that will tick for 10,000 years (Long Now Foundation). We are simultaneously contending with the accumulating evidence of our global impact and thinking ahead to the next epoch. What is this new now? Could the Anthropocene be a sort of anthropogenesis? For recently extinct species, reconceptualizing the present epoch as the Anthropocene is good news: the current mass extinction has at last become aligned with climate change, habitat destruction, and other Earthwide anthropogenic effects, with the potential to advance conservation both philosophically and practically. As evidence, some ecologists and conservation biologists are tackling projects with intriguingly chronological connotations: backbreeding species to resemble their wildtype ancestors, rewilding habitats to restore former ecosystems, and developing synthetic biology to de-extinguish species. Recuperating the past to create a different future than current circumstances presage, these projects intercede in evolutionary processes in unprecedented ways. All three projects reimagine not only time and place, but also species. How do genetic rescue projects reconceptualize these human constructs? This presentation, part of a larger project examining cultural responses to the current mass extinction, analyzes philosophical concerns about nostalgia, nationalism, and species integrity evoked by genetic rescue strategies.
Stephanie S. Turner's scholarship works at the intersections of Science Studies and Animal Studies to consider the critical historical and cultural factors influencing the ways scientists and artists describe, archive, and represent living things and, in turn, to examine the ways these representations influence the wider culture’s perception of the living world. Her most recent article, “Relocating ‘Stuffed’ Animals: Photographic Remediation of Natural History Taxidermy,” published in Humanimalia: A Journal of Human/Animal Interface Studies, explores the phenomenon of photographers making images in natural history museums. At present she is working on a larger manuscript examining scientists' and artists' representation of the current mass extinction of species. She teaches in the Rhetorics of Science, Technology, and Culture program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the US.