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For and Against the Anthropocene

A review of 'Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today'


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Street art celebrating the real-life Louise Michel © Frédéric BISSON |Flickr
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What Could History Have Been?

Imagining new approaches to the humanities

“What could history have been?” The question asks how events might have turned out otherwise, if only X had happened instead of Y. What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? What if Hitler had? The official term for this kind of what-if thinking is “counterfactual history,” and it covers anything from an academic’s earnest attempt to imagine the US economy without railroads to Quentin Tarantino’s WWII redux Jewish revenge fantasy, Inglourious Basterds — anything, that is, which imagines history as it did not happen.

But the same question can be the spur to a different kind of speculation.“History,” after all, has two meanings. It’s not just the sum of past events, but the discipline that studies them. …

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