Auras and Ice Cores: Atmospheric Archives and the Anthropocene

Jesse Oak Taylor, "Auras and Ice Cores: Atmospheric Archives and the Anthropocene," the minnesota review 83 (2014): 73-82. 

Climate scientists refer to the ice cores taken from the Green- land and Antarctic ice caps as an “archive,” the stocks of core samples as a “library,” and those who care for this archive as its “curators." This language points to the potential for real disciplinary and methodological overlaps between the sciences and the humanities. Here, I consider how the ice core archive sits alongside notions of the archive in the humanities in order to think about the ways in which humanistic inquiry changes when humanity becomes a force of nature. In order to conceptualize this relationship, I will turn to Walter Benjamin’s notion of the “aura” of a work of art or other cultural artifact and the ways in which it serves to materialize the accretions of time around objects of historical signicance. 

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