Bronislaw Szerszynski

Lancaster University, UK

Bronislaw Szerszynski

TOPIC: The Twilight of the Machines: Technology Before and After Monotheism


Bronislaw Szerszynski is Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University.  His research seeks to situate social life in the longer perspective of human and planetary history, drawing on the social and natural sciences, arts and humanities.  He is co-author with Nigel Clark of Planetary Social Thought (2021), author of Nature, Technology and the Sacred (2005), and co-editor of Risk, Environment and Modernity (1996), Re-Ordering Nature: Theology, Society and the New Genetics (2003), Nature Performed: Environment, Culture and Performance (2003) and Technofutures: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Nature and the Sacred (2015).  As well as academic publications, his outputs also include performances, creative writing, art-science exhibitions and events, and experimental participatory workshops.  He was co-organiser of the public art–science events Between Nature: Explorations in Ecology and Performance (Lancaster, 2000), Experimentality (Lancaster/Manchester/London, 2009-10), and Anthropocene Monument, with Bruno Latour and Olivier Michelon (Toulouse, 2014-2015).

Selected latest key publications relevant to the conference theme:

Clark, N. and Szerszynski, B. (2022) ‘Rifted subjects, fractured Earth: “progress” as learning to live on a self-transforming planet’, Sociological Review 70(2): 385–401. https://doi.org/10.1177/00380261221084783

Szerszynski, B. (2018) ‘Monument Antropocenu, czyli o splocie czasu geologicznego z ludzkim’, Prace Kulturoznawcze, 22(1-2): 281-305. [Translation into Polish of ‘The Anthropocene monument’] https://doi.org/10.19195/0860-6668.22.1-2.19

Szerszynski, B. (2017) ‘Viewing the technosphere in an interplanetary light’, The Anthropocene Review, 4(2): 92–102. http://doi.org/1177/2053019616670676

Szerszynski, B. (2017) ‘Gods of the Anthropocene: geo-spiritual formations in the Earth’s new epoch’, Theory, Culture & Society, 34(2–3): 253–275. http://doi.org/10.1177/0263276417691102

Szerszynski, B. (2017) ‘The Anthropocene monument: on relating geological and human time’, European Journal of Social Theory, 20(1): 111–131. http://doi.org/10.1177/1368431016666087

Szerszynski, B. (2016) ‘Praise be to you, earth-beings’, Environmental Humanities, 8(2): 291–7. http://doi.org/10.1215/22011919-3664414

Szerszynski, B. (2012) ‘The end of the end of nature: the Anthropocene and the fate of the human’, Oxford Literary Review, 34(2): 165-84. http://doi.org/10.3366/olr.2012.0040

Szerszynski, B. (2010) ‘Technology and monotheism: a dialogue with neo-Calvinist philosophy’, Philosophia Reformata, 75: 43–59. http://doi.org/10.1163/22116117-90000481

More publications and books: PRESS HERE


In this performance for spoken voice, music and animation, I present the story of humanity’s changing relation with technology in mythological form, as if told in the distant future by an unknown being.  We hear how, partly due to the influence of monotheism in the West, an originary cosmotechnics organised around craft and ritual was replaced by a modern understanding of technology that combined ‘magic’ and ‘religion’: that promised to bring about specific goals in ways that affirm the regular, lawful character of the cosmos. The hope embedded in modern technology was that, just as angels extended God’s will through the cosmos, machines would be the wholly subordinated ‘extensions of man’.  However, modern technologies refuse to be contained within this cosmotechnical regime, generating various kinds of ‘techno-demonic’ phenomena that escape the human will.  This story of the destiny or twilight of the machines ends on an ambiguous note. Does machine-being have its own nature, its own destiny, that ultimately has no place for human beings? And what might an alternative cosmotechnical condition for humanity look like, one beyond monotheism and beyond machines? (Words and music by Bronislaw Szerszynski, animations by Adam York Gregory.)