The Anthropocene monument: On relating geological and human time

European Journal of Social Theory 20 (1):111-131 (2017)
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Abstract

In the Parthenon frieze, the time of mortals and the time of gods seem to merge. Dipesh Chakrabarty has argued that with the advent of the Anthropocene the times of human history and of the Earth are similarly coming together. Are humans entering the ‘monumental time’ of the Earth, to stand alongside the Olympian gods of the other geological forces? This article first looks at the cultural shifts leading to the modern idea of separate human and Earth histories. It examines the changing use of monuments to mediate between human and other temporalities. It explores the use of ‘stratigraphic sections’ as natural monuments to mark transitions between the major time units of Earth history, and the erection of intentional monuments nearby. It suggests that the Anthropocene, as a geological epoch-in-the-making, may challenge the whole system of monumental semiotics used to stabilize our way of thinking about deep time.

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