The Anthropocene: Epoch of Loss

Present discussions about the catastrophic and rapid changes now underway in the earth system—transformations that include the mass extinction of species, the inundation of cities, and the collapse of entire ecosystems—focus largely upon concepts like sustainability, mitigation, and resilience. After all, the continued existence of human life on earth may, in fact, depend upon efforts to geoengineer the atmosphere or the reefs, and it is understandable that we wish to protect the remaining members of beloved nonhuman species.  Yet scientifically-oriented discussions about the urgency of averting or mitigating climate transformation have proven politically ineffective, with environmental concerns remaining secondary or tertiary despite the heroic efforts of committed activists.


Meanwhile, the irrevocable loss has already begun, and it will accelerate even under the most optimistic scenarios for human ingenuity and investment.  The nation of Vanuatu is disappearing from the map; millennia of odes to the Yangtze River dolphin refer to a species that will never again be seen on earth; the streets of Miami already flood on sunny days at high tide as a result of rising sea levels.  Such facts suggest that we need something more than good planning, and more than fresh approaches to familiar questions.  We need new modalities of thinking about loss and commemoration that integrate traditional scholarly research with artistic and activist practices in ways appropriate for this epoch.


To an extent that is rare in academia, the issues are largely uncharted. The questions are existential and profound.  They include: What are the limits of hopefulness? How can excellent and constructive science and policy-making coexist with the acceptance that there will be a profound loss? Is it morally appropriate to pause for elegy when there is so much to be done? Is it morally defensible not to do so? What can we learn from historical cases of civilizational collapse? How might reflection on loss prove politically productive where consideration of science has fallen short? Does speculative fiction help us envision what may be coming?  How can we take stock of what exactly it is that we are losing?


We are assembling an interdisciplinary group of scholars, activists, artists, curators, policy-makers, and writers from on and beyond our campus to explore these issues. We want to explore the ethical, epistemological, and artistic challenges of doing theory and history in times of profound global loss. We aim to develop languages and frameworks for communicating about the Anthropocene as an epoch of loss and to explore their political potentiality.


World History Center: Global Indigeneities Series 2020-21

The World History Center is pleased to announce a series of events for the 2020-2021 academic year titled, “Global Indigeneities: Parallels and Intersections in the Global Fight for Reparations and Treaty Rights.”  

This series of working group sessions, events, and speakers aims to define and explore connections between past and present movements of resistance to settler colonialism and anti-Blackness. Black and Indigenous liberation movements have often taken different trajectories, even when they are in coalition with one another. The histories of enslavement and expropriation are too often understood separately from one another. However, during the Summer of 2020, one multicultural movement for social justice advocated for toppling problematic monuments, forcing a change in racist symbols, challenging lapsed treaty rights, and bringing unprecedented attention to racialized economic inequality and police violence against both Black and Indigenous peoples. The Global Indigeneities working group seeks to explore the connected and global histories of these two movements.

For further information, Schedule, and Registration, please click here!


Past Event: Mapping Loss in the Anthropocene

Sunday, November 8, 2020 - Wednesday, December 16, 2020
This workshop aimed to create a space for people to engage with their world through digital methods and art. Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on human-driven climate change and to create maps and art that capture or express their relationships to the natural world while building digital and artistic skills. This workshop can be done entirely asynchronously.



Sponsored by: University of Pittsburgh's Global Studies Center

Global Studies Center
Veronica Dristas

"Apocalypse Chic" by Charlie Tyson

"What If We Stopped Pretending?" by Jonathan Franzen

"Climate Change Ain't The First Existential Threat" by Mary Annaise Heglar




Michael Goodhart

Michael Goodhart is Professor of Political Science, and he holds secondary appointments in Philosophy and in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. His current research focuses on questions to do with global injustice and responsibility for injustice.  He is also interested in thinking about new modes of political theorizing for the Anthropocene. His core intellectual interests are in the theory and practice of democracy and human rights in the context of globalization and in related questions concerning global justice, democratic governance, and political responsibility at the transnational level.
Dr. Goodhart is co-president of the Association for Political Theory; he is an affiliate of the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut, a member of the Center for Ethics and Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and sits on several editorial boards. In 2008-2009 he was an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation research fellow and Guest Professor in the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin. 

Contact about: GSC Research Initiatives, Ideas about Interdiciplinary Projects and Collaboration

Terry Smith


Terry Smith, FAHA, CIHA, is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, and Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art and Critical Thought at the European Graduate School. He is also Faculty at Large in the Curatorial Program of the School of Visual Arts, New York.

His major research interests are contemporary art of the world, including its institutional and social contexts; the histories of multiple modernities and modernisms; the history and theory of contemporaneity; and the historiography of art history and art criticism. He has special expertise in international contemporary art (practice, theory, institutions, markets), American visual cultures since 1870, and Australia art since settlement, including Aboriginal art. Current graduate students under his supervision are working on topics such as critical global practices, new media art, alternative avant-gardes, artists’ collectives, the history of conceptualism, aspects of cultural policy, and histories of art writing. He teaches the undergraduate course Introduction to Contemporary Art, and a graduate seminar on theories of modernity and contemporaneity.

Terry Smith utilized his GSC Faculty Fellowship award to support a public discussion on the theme Coevality: Ethical Being in a Time of Total Change.

"Does the Framework Convention on Climate Change, formally affirmed by 195 nations in Paris on December 12, 2015, signal a turning point in our ability to work in the common interests of all sentient beings and of the worlds in which we live? The negotiators acknowledged the inequalities evident between and within nations, the differences between cultures, individual and group diversity, and the uneven development of institutions, while at the same time presumed the equal value of all parties, places, and polities. The Convention creates a framework for a process for addressing the global problem of climate change that, if followed closely, will be pursued in the same spirit in which it was conceived--one that affirmed, rather than denied, coevalness in all relationships."