When horses won't eat: Apocalypse and the Anthropocene

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In this article I suggest that fantasies of apocalypse are both a product and a producer of the Anthropocene. Although images and narratives of contemporary environmental apocalypse have usually been understood as politically regressive and postpolitical distractions, I demonstrate that a more hopeful reading is possible. Apocalypse tells us that the human as currently configured in the Anthropocene?an ideal universal subject who is energized through fossil fuels and who has been elevated to a position of ecological mastery?cannot continue indefinitely. This article therefore considers what apocalyptic imaginaries reveal about the limits to being human and the future of human life after the Anthropocene. It does so by analyzing a critically acclaimed film, The Turin Horse (2011). In this film an old farm horse refuses to eat, drink, or leave its stall, while a daughter and her father struggle on through an unspecified disaster, gnawing on raw potatoes as their world slowly unravels. The Turin Horse discloses the earth forces that have made Anthropocene humans along three lines: the geological, the biological, and the temporal. The film also hints at three challenges to be overcome to make humans differently: the need to surpass carbon humanity, the need for nonhuman allies, and the need to affirm agency against the inevitability of deep time. I suggest that contemporary apocalyptic visions are a core aspect of how geographers should understand socioecological transformation, as they challenge those who view them to feel the condition of the Anthropocene, and pose the question of how to respond well to unruly earth forces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-359
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number2
Early online date6 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2015

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Environmental Humanities


  • Posthumanism
  • Dystopia
  • Ecocriticism
  • Béla Tarr
  • The Turin Horse


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