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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Jessica Lehman

Lehman, J. (2020). Making an Anthropocene Ocean: Synoptic Geographies of the International Geophysical Year (1957‐1958). Annals of the American Association of Geographers 110(3): 606-622.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Although the notion of the Anthropocene has generated a great deal of literature across disciplines, the geographic critique of this concept is still developing. This article contributes to justice-oriented engagements with the Anthropocene by highlighting the relationships through which planetary knowledge is constructed as sites of critique. I develop an analytic of synoptic geographies, which addresses the praxis of coordinated field measurements that creates the planetary knowledge on which concepts of the Anthropocene rest. Synoptic geographies require a geographic analytic that is capable of going beyond assertions that all knowledge is local. The International Geophysical Year (IGY; 1957–1958) provides a strategic opportunity to elaborate the stakes of synoptic geographies. The IGY was arguably the first attempt to understand the Earth as a planet through a program of widespread synoptic data collection. In particular, the synoptic geographies of the IGY’s oceanography program reveal the ways in which old and new forms of imperialism were knitted together to produce the world ocean as an object of knowledge in a new era of planetary-scale environmental politics.