"Expansionism, Extremism, and Exceptionalism in Life: Boltzmann Brains as a Transdisciplinary Methodology"

Walford, Antonia and Donnacha Kirk | from Multimedia Library Collection:

Walford, Antonia and Donnacha Kirk. “Expansionism, Extremism, and Exceptionalism in Life: Boltzmann Brains as a Transdisciplinary Methodology.” Environmental Humanities 9, no. 2 (2017): 341-58. doi:10.1215/22011919-4215334.

This article explores how taking physical cosmology and the entities that populate its fringes on their own terms might prompt anthropology to rethink what and how it thinks of life. Physical cosmologists work with inanimate matter that lies at the frontier of existential possibility, positing scales and concepts that seem to negate commonsense notions of life and nonlife. Although a common reaction in anthropology when faced with such infinite, nonhuman, and abstract landscapes is to try to crowbar “everyday life” back in, we argue that conceptual space needs to be made for another style of engagement between anthropology and physical cosmology. Taking the Boltzmann Brain as an example of life not only beyond the human but also beyond life as we know it, we start to flesh out a different sort of speculative, transdisciplinary endeavor. (Text from authors’ abstract)

© Antonia Walford and Donnacha Kirk 2017. Environmental Humanities is available online only and is published under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).