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Future Remains

A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene

Future Remains

A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene

What can a pesticide pump, a jar full of sand, or an old calico print tell us about the Anthropocene—the age of humans? Just as paleontologists look to fossil remains to infer past conditions of life on earth, so might past and present-day objects offer clues to intertwined human and natural histories that shape our planetary futures. In this era of aggressive hydrocarbon extraction, extreme weather, and severe economic disparity, how might certain objects make visible the uneven interplay of economic, material, and social forces that shape relationships among human and nonhuman beings?

Future Remains is a thoughtful and creative meditation on these questions. The fifteen objects gathered in this book resemble more the tarots of a fortuneteller than the archaeological finds of an expedition—they speak of planetary futures. Marco Armiero, Robert S. Emmett, and Gregg Mitman have assembled a cabinet of curiosities for the Anthropocene, bringing together a mix of lively essays, creatively chosen objects, and stunning photographs by acclaimed photographer Tim Flach. The result is a book that interrogates the origins, implications, and potential dangers of the Anthropocene and makes us wonder anew about what exactly human history is made of.

224 pages | 16 color plates, 9 halftones | 7 x 9 | © 2017

History: Environmental History, History of Technology


“Evocative. . .A brief review cannot do justice to all that these haunting Anthropocene objects and their accompanying essays say about the future. The essays offer strikingly original and often lyrical meditations
on the ecological and moral tragedies of the Anthropocene as well as the possibilities for creative adaptation and radical hope. The collection’s considerable literary merits are complemented by the aesthetic
beauty of the photographs by Tim Flach. This book compels the reader to ponder the material, intellectual, and moral experiences of the Anthropocene and is richly deserving of a wide readership in the academy and beyond.”

Environmental History

“A significant take on an important yet somewhat nebulous concept, surveying as it does a variety of ways in which people have used or reshaped the planet and its material wealth.”

Times Literary Supplement

“In this collection of essays edited by Gregg Mitman, Marco Armiero, and Robert S. Emmett, objects take center stage and are enlivened with clever metaphor and meaning to narrate the tale of the Anthropocene. Each object presented in this volume is intricately interconnected to place, space, and time, and to the larger planetary scale within which scholars are increasingly starting to explore. . . . Each essay is well written, some are in an almost poetic prose, while others present as personal stories or dialogues, but each tells its own material journey into the Anthropocene.”

Human Ecology

“Objects, cabinets, remains: here is an assembling of wonders from a damaged planet, brought together in order to cultivate the arts of remembering effectively, so as to care seriously, to care for, to care with. Each essay is a provocation to curiosity in the sense of incitement to feel, know, care, and respond. Writing and images converge to make objects present so as to render remaining futures vital.”

Donna Haraway, author of Staying with the Trouble

“This book addresses the vexing issues posed by the Anthropocene—the idea that humans have become a bio-physical force of nature—in an excitingly original way by showing how the material objects of our time will one day become uncanny future fossils. Its imaginative sweep feels as futuristic as science fiction, yet each object is located deftly within its historical and contemporary context. The contributors make up a who’s who of modern scholarship. It should become the go-to book for understanding the implications and significance of the most challenging idea and problem of our time.”

Iain McCalman, author of The Reef: A Passionate History

Future Remains explores the ways in which scholarship and art can come together to experiment with the consequences of thinking the oxymoronic power and powerlessness of humans entailed by the implications of an age of humans. It is able to both eulogize and mock the losses and aspirations that the anthropogenic illusion of control has brought about the planet. . . . It should be read as an invitation to start collecting by asking objects for their stories, their specific entanglements with humans and nature and, hence, to contribute object stories to this Wunderkammer in the hope that it is more alive than it might seem at first glance.”

Ecozona: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment

Table of Contents

Gregg Mitman, Marco Armiero, and Robert S. Emmett

The Anthropocene: The Promise and Pitfalls of an Epochal Idea
Rob Nixon


Anthropocene in a Jar
Tomas Matza and Nicole Heller
Concretes Speak
Rachel Harkness, Cristián Simonetti, and Judith Winter
The Age of (a) Man
Joseph Masco
The Manual Pesticide Spray Pump
Michelle Mart and Cameron Muir

Hubris or Humility: Genealogies of the Anthropocene
Gregg Mitman

Living and Dying

Huia Echoes
Julianne Lutz Warren
Gary Kroll
Marine Animal Satellite Tags
Nils Hanwahr
Artificial Coral Reef
Josh Wodak
Freezing Life in the Anthropocene
Elizabeth Hennessy

Racism and the Anthropocene
Laura Pulido

Sabotaging the Anthropocene; or, In the Praise of Mutiny
Marco Armiero


On Possibility; or, The Monkey Wrench
Daegan Miller
The German Calico Quilt
Bethany Wiggin

Anthropocene Aesthetics
Robert S. Emmett


The Mirror—Testing the Counter-Anthropocene
Sverker Sörlin
Objects from Anna Schwartz’s Cabinet of Curiosities
Judit Hersko
Jared Farmer
Davies Creek Road
Trisha Carroll and Mandy Martin

Anthropocene Cabinets of Curiosity: Objects of Strange Change
Libby Robin


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