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Extinction is most readily associated with the accelerated loss of lifeforms and ecosystems. The annihilation of epistemic systems is less visible. Yet, there is no doubt that “epistemicides” occur. According to Boaventura de Sousa Santos, the intellectual tectonics of colonialism still annihilate and devaluate epistemologies of the South to this day. One particular province of knowledge – which is affected by epistemicides and yet crucial to the challenges posed by the Anthropocene – is the conceptualization of “nature” in it’s spiritual, legal, aesthetic, and economic meanings. While the non-human must to some extent be considered as a resource of life, how was it dealt with in a more or less sustainable way throughout different societies? Which systems of reacculturation, restraint, or long-term use can be salvaged from the continuous destruction of epistemic perspectives? 

In an effort to decolonize epistemology we have invited guests to pursue deeply rooted notions of ownership and use, of justification and legitimacy, conviviality and interaction with non-humans in different epistemic settings. It is in this, the area of diverse solutions to the economic problem, where epistemicides cause a global poverty of sustainable solutions. Also, we will ask, what this discussion means for historians who constantly deal with bygone epistemologies, and what is distinctive about the current wave of extinctions?

David Ludwig
is Associate professor in the Knowledge, Technology, and Innovation Group of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and PI of the Global Epistemologies and Ontologies (GEOS) Project. 

Elizabeth A. Povinelli FAHA is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University where she has also been the Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and the Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Law and Culture. 

Sujit Sivasundaram is Professor of Professor of World History and Director of the Centre of South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge. He is co-convenor of the Anthropocene Histories seminar series. 

All welcome, this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.