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Abstract

In the most general sense, the modern idea of history is a conceptual tool deployed in order to domesticate experienced novelty and expectations of the future. In Western modernity, the operation we usually call historicization has been nothing other than an operation of temporal domestication: the integration of experienced and expected novelty into a larger processual scheme we associate with modern historical time. Based on these theoretical considerations, this article has a dual objective. First, through an analysis of historical approaches to the Anthropocene—that exemplifies present-day perceived radical novelty—it attempts to identify the linguistic-conceptual means of temporal domestication through historical time. Second, it raises the question of the politics of historical time today by focusing on the evaluative aspects of temporal domestication in an age when the future increasingly appears a threat. As a brief conclusion, the article calls for broader recognition of what it calls a plurihistoricity of “historical” transitions, the co-existence of multiple kinds of transformation and change over time.