Logo Utrecht University

CfH Lectures


This lecture is introduced by Prof. Rosi Braidotti.

This lecture considers the Anthropocene as what the literary scholar Raymond Williams once called a “structure of feeling”, that is to say, a social sensibility, a shared sentiment, that informs and is expressed by the arts. To be sure, this is not to suggest that the conceptual category of the Anthropocene does not describe a socio-geological reality; but rather that this reality may well resonate in culture. In the nineteen nineties, late capitalism resounded in postmodernism, just as the avant-garde of the seventies echoed particular political developments. To conceptualize the Anthropocene as a structure of feeling is not the same as to describe it as a stylistic register or a rhetorical tactic. A structure of feeling may well translate to certain strategies or tropes more often than others, but neither is it unique to these phenomena nor are these phenomena exclusive to it. Postmodernism, for instance, has often been described in terms of eclecticism and pastiche, but neither of those devices signified postmodernism in its entirety, nor, of course, was either of them invented by postmodernism. Here, I seek to chart the structure of feeling of the Anthropocene by looking in detail at a number of recent practices in the arts, focusing in particular on the return of grand narratives, the affective turn, and the cult of craft.

BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht organizes the series of presentations, conversations, seminars, and workshops Posthuman Glossary. The series takes place in the form of intensive two-day gatherings with artists, scholars, and activists around the critical issues of posthumanity in present-day artistic and intellectual work. Posthuman Glossary is a part of BAK’s research program Future Vocabularies (2014–2016) and its chapter Human-Inhuman-Posthuman, which is developed in dialogue with BAK Research Fellow Professor Rosi Braidotti and organized in collaboration with the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. The series leads to the publishing of the Posthuman Glossary in 2016, edited by Braidotti and BAK’s Artistic Director Maria Hlavajova.