Encountering Deep Time


The fractured timespace of the Anthropocene brings distant pasts and futures into the present. Thinking about deep time is challenging: deep time is strange, and warps our sense of belonging and our relationships to earth forces and creatures.

In the year 3,000 I was recruited to be part of an expedition funded by the Dark Lords of the Twin Moon. We returned to Earth to scavenge for future fossils – data. Our expedition found a shattered hard-drive. You can watch our full report here.

More conventionally, building on a series of events held with the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network, including a long-running reading group and a series of international symposia, I copublished a special issue on deep time in Environmental Humanities in 2018. The introduction to this special issue builds on scholarship in the environmental humanities concerning the ongoing inheritance of biological and geological processes that stretch back into the deep past, as well as the opening up of multiple vistas of the futures. Rather than understanding deep time as an abstract concept, we explore how deep time manifests through places, objects and practices. Focusing on three modes through which deep time is encountered—enchantment, violence and haunting—we introduce deep time as an intimate element woven into everyday lives. Deep time stories, we suggest, engage with the productive ways in which deep time reworks questions of narrative, self and representation. In addressing these dynamics, this introduction and the accompanying articles place current concerns into the larger flows of planetary temporalities, revealing deep time as productive, homely and wondrous, as well as unsettling, uncanny.

Ginn F, Bastian B, Farrier D and Kidwell J (2018) Ginn, Bastian, Farrier & Kidwell 2018 Encountering Deep Time Environmental Humanities.