Affective Anthropocene symposium

International Symposium on “Affective Anthropocene: Contextualizing Feelings and Environments under Climate Change

Date: 1-2 June 2023
Venue: WLB 105, Wing Lung Bank Building for Business Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University and online (mix-mode)
Organizer: The Anthropocene and Chinese Contemporary Cultures Research Consortium, Department of Humanities, Hong Kong Baptist University
Department of Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University
Master of Arts (MA) in Producing for Film, Television and New Media, Hong Kong Baptist University
Cultural Literacy Programme (LIVE), Office of Student Affairs, Hong Kong Baptist University

In popular perception and imagination, narratives about climate future and ecological crisis usually fall into one of these categories: utopia and apocalypse. Meaning-making narrative or storytelling with characters, drama, and connecting threads is significant because it reveals how scientific findings on the Earth’s future is communicated to the public and hence to drive collective action. Mitigation or adaptation to climate crisis requires habitual-cultural, eco-social changes, and communal values in order to overcome public inertia, procrastination and paralysis. But overemphasis on narrative or storytelling, i.e. “tell the climate story well,” may simplify moral values and reinforce binary thinking as found in many popular climate discourses. Climate narratives of either dystopian thrillers or techno-utopias not only may fail to accommodate the contingencies and unpredictability of real life, but they also could be subjected to the appropriations by nation-states for fulfilling political ambitions and nationalist agenda, by big corporations for marketing strategies, and by ideologists or visionaries for other manipulative purposes.

While not belittling the importance of narratives, language or words, the symposium seeks an alternative pathway through affectivity to arouse our consciousness and bring about ethical action to the Anthropocene crisis. The term “affectivity,” which has been popularized by the field of affect studies or affect theory, refers not only to individual feeling but also to a substrate of bodily responses emerging from communal, mediating interactions among various human and nonhuman life forms. Rather than simply passive effects of a cause, affectivity goes beyond the positive-negative, active-passive, good-bad binarism or bifurcation in sentient living beings that react to what happens to them by participating in and shaping how they are affected. Not only does affectivity offer channels to challenge the captivity by the hegemony of representation and the domain of the visible, living beings become what and who they are through complex and mutual interactions with that which affects them. For humans to cognize themselves as ecological beings requires affective attunement and reciprocity with that which affects and moves them.

Although Anthropocene may engender many negative human-centered emotions, like anxiety, despair, grief, anger, helplessness or guilt, our symposium seeks presentations, including using emotions for transformative change, effective politics and empowerment of agency, that alert us to the relations between emotions and built / natural environments, and the proliferation of affects in material environments to open up new awareness, perceptions, empathy, engagement between human and nonhuman life forms.

The anchoring queries of the 2-day symposium in hybrid mode are as follows:
• In what ways can affectivity overcome or draw upon national, racial, sexual, generational and species boundaries in the age of climate change?
• How is the formation of new identities or a reassertion of old ones related to affectivity and to what extent can affective ecologies help confront the environmental challenges?
• What kinds of specific space or geographical location, whether on global, regional, national or local scale, can enhance or subside affectivity in the Anthropocene?
• How does the ecological civilization in China and beyond accommodate the complex emotions that accompany life in the Anthropocene?

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Posted by: Chun Yui Shing <>

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