L’Anthropocène et le temps des historiens // [The Anthropocene and the time of historians]

The notion of the Anthropocene has arrived so rapidly on the political and academic scene that it is sometimes difficult to orient oneself amid the mass of publications and events, or even to situate the different arguments presented. This article proposes to take a step back by examining the effects of this concept on historians’ notion of time. In the absence of a sociological and intellectual study providing a precise map of the actors and places involved, a genealogical approach can reveal a certain number of conceptual displacements that have occurred since the idea was first proposed. In particular, the passage from geological time to historical time has transformed the nature of the Anthropocene as event. Furthermore, the response of the humanities and social sciences has been critical, revealing the tension between the Anthropocene as a label and forum for discussion, and the Anthropocene as an analytical frame applied to empirical studies. Finally, while applying the notion of period to the Anthropocene poses a certain number of difficulties (teleology, the return to a Western-centered vision of the global, the synchronization of history, etc.), the pluralization of thresholds and temporal breaks appears to enrich the writing of history, opening up new avenues of research receptive to materiality and to non-human actors.