Future Fossils? Specimens from the Royal Geographical Society’s 5th millennium ‘Return to Earth’ expedition

Future Fossils? Specimens from the Royal Geographical Society’s 5th millennium ‘Return to Earth’ expedition

Beth Greenhough (University of Oxford), Jamie Lorimer (University of Oxford), Kathryn Yusoff  (Queen Mary University of London)

We invite participants to speculate on the traces or signals (geological or otherwise) that will mark out the Anthropocene for future geo-graphers and geo-logists. An invitation is extended to an imaginary future event: a 5000AD symposium to report the results of an Earth expedition. Participants will bring with them examples of ‘future fossils’; significant remnants of our contemporary age that illustrate how current human and non-human relations imprint their legacies into not only geological, but all kinds of biological, social, atmospheric and virtual strata.

One of the key challenges posed by the Anthropocene concept is that it forces us to engage with both an entangled present and an uncertain future. While seemingly anthropocentric (in its claim that the influence of humanity is all pervasive), the idea of an Anthropocene highlights how the non-human world is firmly embedded within and through us. How will future generations (looking back) discern the divides between human and other species and their relations to broader geomorphological, biological, socio-economic and cultural processes? The Anthropocene provides a provocation to think life differently and we seek to make prominent the geo-politics of this epochal event, whose present and future telling offers opportunities for alternative ways of writing the Earth.

We are keen to encourage the submissions from across the discipline, (from glaciology to affective technologies) demonstrating how geographers might use the Anthropocene to interrogate how their research fields could endure and what we might learn from that tenacity. In imagining the format of this future symposium we encourage (but will not restrict ourselves to) submissions from solitary explorers or delegations examining:

  • middens, landfills and other sites of waste disposal
  • mines, tunnels, quarries and other sites of earth-working
  • digital cloud-storage repositories
  • the anatomical, genetic, and biochemical composition of bodies found in what were once known as ‘graveyards’
  • forms of settlement and architecture
  • pollen, sediment and skeletal analysis from what was once known as ‘the countryside’
  • the ocean depths and littoral flotsam and jetsam
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One thought on “Future Fossils? Specimens from the Royal Geographical Society’s 5th millennium ‘Return to Earth’ expedition”

  1. Hi, I’ve just begun to work on a large artwork idea set approximately the same time as your invitation. I am imagining an archeological dig set in a quarry/mine where some big machines have ‘died’. I’ve registered futurefossils.org and am working on the idea now. I’d love to have some people to talk to.

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The website for the Royal Geographical Society's History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group

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