'The Anthropocene has rendered the familiar strange and the strange familiar. As David Farrier suggests, ‘Surely the “sublime” is not the right way to characterise our visceral response to [the Anthropocene]. The “uncanny” might serve us better’ (np). The papers in this interdisciplinary collection consider what the era of the Anthropocene means for how we critically, artistically and affectively approach objects. In line with contemporary critical re-evaluations of the liveliness of objects (Bennett, Vibrant; Brown), this collection brings together things which are dead and/or alive, human and/or nonhuman, sensate and/or insensate, fantastical and/or historical, natural and/or cultural, spectacular and/or mundane. These objects are here re-enlivened in order to expose alternative ways of knowing the past, understanding this anthropocentric present, and imagining the role of humans in shaping environmental futures. In this way, the collection interrogates present and future problems—species mass-extinction, climate change, anthropogenic environmental impact—in relation to how the past is re-imagined, interpreted, commemorated, subverted and displayed. The collection considers human history in relation to the deep histories of nonhuman time and the more-than-human effects that a human-centred approach have often ignored or hidden. We are interested not only in objects as products of the Anthropocene, but in how the Anthropocene uncanny invites us to re-consider histories and objects in new and unexpected ways.' (Hannah Stark , Katrina Schlunke and Penny Edmonds : Introduction: Uncanny Objects in the Anthropocene)
Contents indexed selectively.
'My love affair with museums began when I was seven. I saw a bunyip’s head in a glass case, a strange, unsettling creature with a one-eyed blind stare, a cycloptic monster. I was small and I stood up on my toes to see the creature through the glass. On show, the bunyip was mounted in a tall, ornate nineteenth-century wooden cabinet. The typed paper label gave scientific verification: ‘A bunyip’s head, New South Wales. 1841.’ I recall the palpable shock of it, and my mixed childhood emotions: bunyips were real. With its long jawbone wrapped in fawn-coloured fur, it was a decapitated Australian swamp-dweller preserved. Yet, the horrific creature looked so sad, and with its sightless eye, gaping mouth and cartoonish backward drooping ears. It was a creature of pathos—a gormless, goofy redhead, a ranga, a total outsider.' (Introduction)
'We overhear a woman weeping by the side of a river, her tears mingling with its water and her voice echoing back to her to amplify her complaint. Caught up in grief and, occasionally, anger, she laments her unjust treatment by her male lover, even as she declares her unrequited love in the face of his abandonment (Kerrigan 14-23). In the late sixteenth century, when such complaints flourished, this abandonment could have devastating social and economic consequences for historical women’s lives, especially if the woman were pregnant. These chronicles of woe dramatised such consequences for both the unknown victims of assault and recognisable historical figures, in an early form of true crime writing. Yet this kind of female-voiced complaint was rarely a vehicle for women’s own protest or pursuit of redress. Early modern women’s complaints against love gone wrong were often written by men and framed by male narrators: they were the imagined responses of abused and abandoned women dramatised for the reader’s enjoyment and used to voice larger complaints against the times. Around these weeping figures formed sympathetic and generative communities, from the intimate publics who listened to the speaker’s lament within the text, to the broader communities of men and women who heard, read, copied, circulated or rewrote these complaints as their own.' (Introduction)
'It is a rite of passage in the early days of law school to ponder eighteenth-century jurist William Blackstone’s famous ratio, in which it is deemed ‘better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer’ (Blackstone 352), and the kind of society—or more importantly, normative vision of society—it meaningfully instantiates. The ratio, after all, as a precursor to the now commonplace presumption of innocence, suggests that the criminal division of law (and, more broadly, the rule of law and the tenets of procedural fairness it requires) has been designed so as to protect the accused from the sheer brutality of accusation, over and above its other, secondary function, which is to protect society from its criminal element, and protect victims of crime. It, then, heralds a specific political commitment: by stressing the importance of tempering the structural violence of sovereignty and the state apparatus in the organisation of a well-formed society, it correctly deemphasises or downplays the ways in which individual cases of injustice (that is, the ten guilty persons who escape) are able to shape the contours of social life.' (Introduction)
'I am writing this response just after the Avital Ronell story has hit the mainstream media in the United States. Ronell, a well-known professor long allied with deconstruction and psychoanalytic theory, has been accused by a former graduate student of inappropriate, sexualized conduct. Ronell has denied the charges. After an eleven-month investigation, Ronell’s institution (NYU) has found that she behaved improperly towards this student and has suspended her, without pay, for the 2018-2019 academic year. One of the first reports I read about this suspension was from the online NYU student newspaper, the Washington Square News, which drew extensively from the original reporting in the New York Times just a few hours earlier. Somewhere around the sixth paragraph of the Washington Square News story I became confused. It appeared that the reporters had accidentally transposed the student’s name for Ronell’s, so that it was the student (not the professor) who was denying allegations of inappropriate contact; it was the student who wasn’t aware that his conduct had made the professor uncomfortable; it was the student who was defending himself by saying that his language was merely flamboyant. I didn’t take a screen shot of this paragraph and the next morning when I looked again at the online report, the language and the identities and the behaviours had all been corrected and everything made sense again: it is now the professor not the student who is the author of unacceptable conduct.' (Introduction)
'Rosalind Smith’s essay, ‘Cultures of Complaint: Protest and Redress in the Age of #Metoo,’ begins and ends with a reflexion on gendered genres of complaint. In contrast to the early modern female complaint that upheld the romantic and marital mores it lamented, the complaint emblematic of the ‘#metoo’ and ‘#timesup’ movements seeks redress: it demands at least reparations for some wrongdoing, be it through legal process or not, and in certain cases the rectification of the structural or institutional inequality that enables sexual harassment. And yet, as Smith notes, feminist efforts to make the complaint a catalyst for political change are thwarted by the kind of defence of men accused of sexual harassment at play in Laura Kipnis’ Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus (2017) and one of its predecessors, Helen Garner’s The First Stone: Some Questions about Sex and Power (1995). These books, the former from the United States and the latter from Australia, cast specific men accused of sexual harassment as the legitimate complainants, wronged by the system tasked to investigate and rule on their alleged wrongdoing. Whereas the early modern complaint, relayed by a male narrator, made the female complainant a target of empathy but maintained the patriarchal status quo, Kipnis and Garner’s ventriloquising of the male complaint makes men targets of empathy to protect the patriarchal status quo.' (Introduction)
'People who have understood that ‘laws of nature’ on Planet Earth are changing rapidly, unpredictably and frighteningly have responded in different ways: by presenting scientific research and data to the public, by refuting the optimistic or self-interested arguments of sceptics, by attempting to get international action on CO2 emission reductions, on ecological systems or on rising sea-levels. A common concern has been to establish modes of understanding and research into the situations lumped under terms like ‘Anthropocene’, climate change or ‘environmental degradation’.' (Introduction)