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Encountering the Anthropocene: reconfiguring human-nature relations on the North Norfolk coast, UK

Arnall, A. ORCID: (2023) Encountering the Anthropocene: reconfiguring human-nature relations on the North Norfolk coast, UK. Geoforum, 143. 103768. ISSN 0016-7185

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2023.103768


The Anthropocene, proposed as a new era in human-nonhuman relations, is potentially both profound and far-reaching. However, it has also been critiqued as a universalising concept detached from the realities of people’s day-to-day lives. The aim of this paper is to address this shortcoming by examining the situations of coastal communities on the ‘frontline’ of global environmental change in North Norfolk in the UK. In this region, sea defences that have protected towns and villages for decades are deteriorating and, consequently, the effects of coastal erosion on human settlements are becoming increasingly evident. Through the conceptual framework of ‘encountering’, I explore how human-nature relations are being reconfigured as a result and with what consequences for the actors involved. The findings show that coastal communities are becoming more and more aware of nonhuman forces as the unruly sea impinges upon daily life in various, multisensory ways. These effects not only cause people to ‘give way’ to the encroaching waters through relocation of homes and businesses but also attempt to ‘buy time’ with an active nature by extending the life of existing defences. The revitalisation of nature in coastal regions is also intersecting with long-held experiences of marginalisation and disempowerment to produce new, ‘bottom-up’ naturalcultural discourses concerning social justice. Overall, I demonstrate how an approach that emphasises encountering in the global era of the Anthropocene helps reveal rather than conceal the personal traumas and injustices experienced by different groups as well as the emergent conditions for more politically active, hopeful futures.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of International Development
ID Code:111854

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