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Power and TimeTemporalities in Conflict and the Making of History$
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Dan Edelstein, Stefanos Geroulanos, and Natasha Wheatley

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226481623

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226706016.001.0001

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A Technofossil of the Anthropocene: Sliding Up and Down Temporal Scales with Plastic

A Technofossil of the Anthropocene: Sliding Up and Down Temporal Scales with Plastic

(p.122) 4 A Technofossil of the Anthropocene: Sliding Up and Down Temporal Scales with Plastic
Power and Time

Andrea Westermann

University of Chicago Press

Applying the technofossil metaphor to plastic and its waste has greatly amplified the resonance of the notion, a resonance due to our collective experience with synthetic materials. Plastic waste looks different at different stages of decay and can be sorted accordingly. The essay follows this sequence back and forth using the actor’s category of plastic as a scaling device. It considers how plastic as a heuristic tool is propelling the societal impact on the earth system into the deep future. Second, it explores how plastic waste allows us to perceive the present as a deep present, drawing on methods developed in the study of the deep past or prehistory and transposed to the archaeology of our daily lives. Third, it shows how, from the mid-twentieth century on, the societal history of plastic has developed into a temporally stratified omnipresence. Finally, it shows that we can consider plastic’s temporalities not only as an academic domain but also as a sphere of mundane consumer practice and melancholic artistic reflection. The disciplinary disjunctures tend to be blurred by our imagining of plastic waste as an objectlike, archaeological artifact. Plastic as a technofossil invites us to zoom in on a large, yet historical, scale.

Keywords:   deep future, deep time, history of geology, nostalgia, creative commensuration

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