The Midwest Field Station: Anthropocene Drift


The Midwestern United States is dominated by cropland, a patchwork of monocrop fields laden with corn and soy destined for confined animal feedlots, fuel refineries, chemical manufacturers, and global export. Globally, such large-scale agriculture is deeply connected to climate change, contributing more than one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. Political ecologists argue, however, that the impacts of industrial agriculture cannot be measured by emissions alone. From the near-total destruction of the prairie biome by the beginning of the 20th century to the flow of 21st century chemicals down the Mississippi River, agricultural land degradation reaches across territories, connecting past, present, and future. Subtended by property law, enabled by large-scale infrastructure, and shored up by popular mythologies, the region and its agricultural practices are also imbricated in violent and problematic histories of convergence between indigenous peoples and settler colonialists. The problems of conventional agriculture therefore cannot be faced — let alone solved — without situating them in their historical, social, and ecological contexts. Consistent with recent proposals that date the start of the Anthropocene to the great intensification of colonization that began around 1600, the Anthropocene Drift field station centers the historic and ongoing processes of colonialism.

Field Station 2  will produce in situ knowledge about the regional conceptual territory of the Anthropocene Drift: from the Driftless area of what is now known as the state of Wisconsin to the flatlands of central Illinois. Through field work consisting of meetings, tours, and workshops guided by expert interpreters, the core group of organizers will engage with a complex of epistemological and material systems that pertain to the current shape of the region. These systems, both complementary and competing, will be used to frame an understanding of the Anthropocene as it can be experienced, on the ground.

Nick Brown (Northeastern University)
Ryan Griffis (Art & Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Sarah Kanouse (Northeastern University)
Sam Gould (Tools in Common, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)


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Created date

June 4, 2019

Group Audience

Cite as

Jason Ludwig. 4 June 2019, "The Midwest Field Station: Anthropocene Drift", Disaster STS Network, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 24 July 2019, accessed 17 May 2022.