An Anthropocene Primer

Research on the Anthropocene has proliferated over the last decade. More and more disciplines have adopted the Anthropocene as a legitimate area of study. With this widespread interest has come a flood of publications, art installations, research projects, and media coverage. For beginners and experts alike, getting a handle on all the work being done on the Anthropocene can feel like drinking water from a fire hose.

We created An Anthropocene Primer to provide learners with an entry point into some of the big concepts and debates that dominate discussions about the Anthropocene. After working through the primer, you will find it much easier to deal with that firehose of information. It is neither comprehensive (this is, after all, An Anthropocene Primer, not The Anthropocene Primer), nor is it didactic. We designed the primer as a framework to guide individual and collaborative learning.  As you encounter new work on the Anthropocene, you will be able to give it context. Terms and concepts that once felt unfamiliar and strange will have meaning and relevance.

An Anthropocene Primer is a living document. We will continue to supplement content via the blog. The blog will include commentary on new publications, findings, emerging themes, and current affairs. It will also feature items such as podcasts and interviews.

Version 1.0 of An Anthropocene Primer is hosted by the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute as an open access book, which we are releasing during Open Access Week in October 2017. In collaboration with Indiana University Press, we are inviting the public to participate in an open peer review of the volume until February 1, 2018.

Directions on how to participate in the open peer review of this book are detailed below. It’s really simple. All you need to do is highlight a section of text on which you want to comment and choose “Annotate” from the pop up menu. The first time you comment, you will need to type your name and email and choose a password. We will use this information to credit you as a collaborator in the printed version of this book.



Jason M. Kelly and Fiona P. McDonald

Jason M. Kelly,  Fiona P. McDonald, Alejandro Camargo, Amelia Moore, Mark Kesling, Ananya Ghoshal, George Marcus, Paul Stoller, Dominic Boyer, Serenella Iovino, Rebecca Ballestra, Eduardo S. Brondizio, Jim Enote, Ignatius Gutsa, Cymene Howe, Sue Jackson, Phil Scarpino

An Anthropocene Primer
emerged out of a workshop hosted by the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute on May 16-20, 2017. Funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Indiana University New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Program, Anthropology of the Anthropocene: Structures, Theories, Practices brought together anthropologists and leading thinkers in policy, theory, philosophy, science, art, and the humanities who have been tackling the sociocultural frameworks and experiences of the Anthropocene. The goal of this workshop was to ask large interdisciplinary questions about Anthropology’s role in the Anthropocene.

Anthropology of the Anthropocene: Structures, Theories, Practices is part of the IAHI’s Rivers of the Anthropocene project, a research network of scientists, humanists, social scientists, artists, policy makers, and community organizers who examine global water systems in the Anthropocene.

Open Peer Review of An Anthropocene Primer

With an increasing number of scholars, we believe that open collaboration is a valuable component of knowledge production.[1] Because of this, we have put the first version of An Anthropocene Primer online. We are inviting teachers, researchers, and learners—whether they are in museums, academia, government, or beyond—to help us refine it. We are looking for thoughtful, constructive critique. We’re also hoping that the text can spur conversation in its margins, and we look forward to participating in open dialogue with you.

The text goes online on October 23, 2017 as our contribution to Open Access Week. Indiana University Press has kindly agreed to review the book for publication, and we intend to integrate your comments into the second version of the book, which will be available as both an open access and a print-on-demand text.

The system that we are using to facilitate online conversation is is an amazing system, which allows users to annotate online texts. Using it is simple. You can link to the video tutorial here.

We are indebted to the early work in open peer book review by scholars such as Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Jack Dougherty, Kristen Nawrotzki, and Tennyson O’Donnell.[2] An Anthropocene Primer builds on the concepts that Jason M. Kelly and Tim Hitchcock proposed in relation to their work on History Working Papers and the Open Scholarship Project.[3] The book also conforms to the open access publication ethos of the Rivers of the Anthropocene project, which will publish an open access edited volume, Rivers of the Anthropocene, with University of California Press in December 2018.

[1] Tony Ross-Hellauer, “What Is Open Peer Review? A Systematic Review,” F1000Research 6 (August 31, 2017).

[2] Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki, Writing History in the Digital Age (Trinity College and University of Michigan Press, 2012); Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O’Donnell, eds., Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning (University of Michigan Press, 2015); Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence (New York: NYU Press, 2009) .

[3] Tim Hitchcock and Jason M. Kelly, “Reinventing the Academic Journal: The ‘Digital Turn’, Open Access, & Peer Review,” History Workshop Online, April 22, 2013; Jason M. Kelly, “Open Access and the Historical Profession,” Digital Sandbox, August 12, 2013.

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