|Title||Placing the past: The McMurdo Dry Valleys and the problem of geographical specificity in Antarctic history|
|Publication Type||Book Chapter|
|Year of Publication||2019|
|Book Title||Anthropocene Antarctica: Perspectives from the Humanities, Law and Social Sciences|
This chapter uses the history of the McMurdo Dry Valleys to think about the problem of geographical specificity in Antarctica. As the largest predominantly ice-free region in the Antarctic continent, the McMurdo Dry Valleys are in some ways quite different from the surrounding landscape. But despite this difference, the region has been used by scientists to make broad claims about Antarctica as a whole. While using the McMurdo Dry Valleys in this way helps to increase the relevance of the research conducted in this part of the continent, it also risks ‘flattening’ the rest of Antarctica and assuming that there are connections and similarities where none may exist. These risks of flattening the continent are arguably exacerbated by the concept of the Anthropocene, which assumes a universal human impact across the planet. Such observations call for a nuanced understanding of regions such as the McMurdo Dry Valleys which acknowledge the specificity of place, but also consider how they fit into the broader picture of Antarctic history. The paper concludes by arguing that a one-size-fits-all vision of the Anthropocene does not seem appropriate for thinking about the past, present, or future of a continent where we are only just coming to appreciate the richness and diversity of place.