SYMP 176 - Activity theory and the anthropocene

3.4 Transformative agency
Symposium (Symp)
Thursday Aug 31   03:50 PM to 05:20 PM (1 hour 30 minutes)
The announcement of the Anthropocene – the current epoch of geological time – in which the impact of human activity on the planet represents one of the most significant intellectual challenges of our time (Angus, 2016; Moore, 2016; Bellamy Foster, 2016; Wark, 2015). The increasingly acute human impact on the planet, alongside new technologies that have blurred the boundaries between human and non-human, have inspired a new body of research across the social sciences. The proposed symposium seeks to situate Activity Theory (AT) in the context of this scholarship.

AT’s focus on human activity speaks uniquely to this body of thought. Specifically, AT’s turn to material social activity situates this tradition in close proximity to the ‘material turn’ in contemporary philosophy. The material turn refers to recent theoretical trends that depart from poststructuralism while building on its critiques of Enlightenment conceptions of the human (Braidotti, 2013; Barad, 2007). It is comprised of a broad range of theoretical currents, including new materialism (Dolphijn, 2012; Barad, 2012, 2003), actor-network theory (Latour, 2005, 1995, 1992), and postphenomenology (Rosenberger, 2015; Ihde, 2010; Verbeek, 2005), among others.

Similar to these approaches, AT also signals a turn to matter. However, it offers a different type of materialism – one that grasps the materiality of human activity as a “special reality” (Ilyenkov, 2012). This symposium is timely because it situates AT in dialogue with these new directions in philosophy, and offers a fresh perspective on “how matter comes to matter” (Barad, 2007).
Wilfrid Laurier University
University of California, Irvine
The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) (New York, NY, United States)