A Multimodal Approach to the Anthropocene

I got too busy this autumn, and I forgot to post about the essay that Fiona P. McDonald and I wrote for the August issue of American Anthropologist. It’s still available through open access. Here is the link: https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/aman.13114

Sallie Han and Jason Antrosio summarize the essay in the October 2018 edition of Open Anthropology:

Among anthropologists, it is well understood that climate change is an urgent matter of our times and that our discipline has a critical role to play in our understanding of and responses to it. In “A Multimodal Approach to the Anthropocene,” published in American Anthropologist in 2018, Jason M. Kelly and Fiona P. McDonald write: “The challenge posited to anthropology in responding to the Anthropocene is, in part, a pedagogical one, an institutional one, and a publishing one. It is also fundamentally an ethical one about access and participation” (591). Their essay discusses an assemblage of work—including web sites and more traditional “outputs” such as a monograph and articles—emerging from a collaborative and interdisciplinary workshop on the “Anthropology of the Anthropocene” held in 2017. The focus is on An Anthropocene Primer, an open-access digital portal that is intended as a resource not only for scholars and students, but also for members of the larger public. Notably, the organizers’ interest is creating a resource with global reach, thus a Spanish translation is currently in the works for 2019, with plans to include additional languages as both the primer expands to include more material and the funds to support translation become available. At the core of the primer is the “Syllabus,” which readers may choose to navigate by completing a course of modules (featuring texts and videos) at beginner, intermediate, or advanced levels—or they may read and view the entire primer without the course. In addition, readers can highlight and annotate the text, keeping their notes private or conversing with other readers in the marginalia. Kelly and McDonald describe the primer as a form of “serious play.” Like other forms of serious play that have received attention lately—such as classroom gamification—the primer is “an intersubjective, sociable experience. It requires collaboration both across the disciplines and across structural boundaries, whether disciplinary, institutional, or sociocultural” (590).