Conference Conferences

Politics of Nature: Philosophical Perspectives on the Anthropocene

In cooperation with ICI Berlin

October 20-21, 2022 ICI Berlin

Christinenstr. 18-19, Haus 8, D-10119 Berlin

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THE CHALLENGE OF THE ANTHROPOCENE

It is obvious that human forms of life have affected the earth system to such an extent that one has to consider the possibility that we have entered a new geological age. More importantly, the severe changes underway in this new age, often called the “Anthropocene,” seem to undermine the very conditions of our survival on this planet: Climate change, a severe reduction of biodiversity, the increasing exploitation and devastation of the environment, new diseases based on cross-species virus transmission are only a few of the most visible forms in which human activities have seriously undermined the habitability of this planet for our own and other species. It is the dire irony of the term “Anthropocene” that it is named after the very species that is heading for self-extinction in this age. This situation does not just underline the fact that our current capitalist forms of life are unviable, but also poses a challenge to some of the constitutive ideals that have guided the critique of these forms of life as well – notions of growth and transformation, liberation and invention, freedom and self-determination, care and responsibility, justice and equality.

Three Goals

Against this background, the conference seeks to articulate the “Anthropocene” as a philosophical problem that requires a deep revision of our self-understanding and a new conception of politics. It aims, first, to acknowledge and determine the extent to which the current crisis challenges fundamental elements of our philosophical self-conception (among other things the way we have conceived of the relations of subject and object, spirit and nature, thought and matter, cause and effect, freedom and necessity). Second, it aims to propose avenues for overcoming the epistemological obstacles that keep us from understanding our current situation properly and develop a new understanding of ecologies of existence. Third, it seeks to develop conceptions of a new politics of nature – a conception of politics that takes seriously the peculiar agency of nature and develops new notions of self-determination.

Avoiding Two Mistakes

The conference is guided by the sense that in revising our modes of thinking and acting we have to avoid two symmetric mistakes: On the one hand, to just reiterate and reformulate the notion of human rule over nature in a different guise, a notion that is still implied in the very idea of the “Anthropocene” and also expressed in the well-minded aspiration that human beings should become guardians of all life on earth. On the other hand, it is equally hopeless to take recourse to a romantic picture of an immediate harmonious unity with nature which is just the flip side of the domination model and fails to do justice to nature’s sublime indifference to us. Instead of the domination of nature or retreat into our unity with it, we require, as Walter Benjamin once put it, a conscious political articulation of our relation to nature.

Toward A New Politics of Nature

A politics of nature in this sense seeks to recognize that, first, nature is genuinely political (always already affected by our political regimes, never simply natural, most obvious in the constructions of pristine or innocent nature); and, second, that politics has a natural dimension (has to reckon with natural dynamics that it can neither unilaterally control nor negotiate with, however hard one tries – something the current pandemic has painfully reminded us of). It seeks to hold these two insights together, thereby enabling us to see the interconnectedness of contemporary planetary and social crises: to acknowledge how climate change and social inequality intersect, how natural and political crises co-determine one another, how social structures have enabled natural crises that in turn exacerbate social pathologies.

The conference will include a diversity of approaches to these questions and invites controversy and debate that extends to questioning the very terms of the debate laid out above (involving the problematic term “Anthropocene”, the pitfalls of thinking about “ecologies of existence”, and the possible problematic implications of talking about a “politics of nature”).

Program

October 20, 2022

ICI Berlin

  • 10:15 – 10:30 – Thomas Khurana, Politics of Nature: An Introduction 
  • 10:30 – 11:45 – Beth Lord, Spinoza and the Politics of Soil
    Chair: Oliver Precht
  • 11:45 – 12:15 – Coffee break
  • 12:15 – 13:30 – Martin Saar, Nature/Politics: Critical Theory and the Turn to Life
    Chair: Hanna Hamel
  • 13:30 – 15:00 – Lunch Break
  • 15:00 – 16:15 – Jacob Blumenfeld, The Socialization of Nature
    Chair: Lillian Cicerchia
  • 16:15 – 16:45 – Coffee break
  • 16:45 –18:00 – Karen Ng, Metabolism and Natural Limits: Rethinking Species–Being in Hegel and Marx
    Chair: Kristina Lepold
  • 18:30 – 20:00 Keynote – Slavoj Žižek, ‘Unbehagen in der Natur‘: On Thinking the End of Nature
    Chair: Christian Schmidt

October 21, 2022

ICI Berlin

  • 10:00 – 11:15 – Frank Ruda, Un-Natur: De-natura (rerum)
    Chair: Katharina Hoppe
  • 11:30 – 12:45 – Melanie Sehgal, Philosophy and the Arts of a New Climatic Regime
    Chair: Hilkje Hänel
  • 12:45 – 14:30 Lunch break
  • 14:30 – 15:45 – Oxana Timofeeva, The World Soul?
    Chair: Francesca Raimondi
  • 15:45 – 16:15 Coffee break
  • 16:15 – 17:30 Christoph Menke, The Humanization of Nature
    Chair: Jeanette Ehrmann
  • 17:30 – 18:00 Coffee break
  • 18:00 – 20:00 18:00 – 20:00 – Discussion What Is to Be Done?: Climate Crisis and Political Activism – with Andreas Malm, Eva von Redecker, Rupert Read,
    Chair: Robin Celikates

Participants

With Jacob Blumenfeld (Oldenburg), Robin Celikates (FU Berlin), Lillian Cicerchia (FU Berlin), Jeanette Ehrmann (HU Berlin), Hanna Hamel (ZfL Berlin), Hilkje Hänel (Potsdam), Katharina Hoppe (Frankfurt), Thomas Khurana (Potsdam), Kristina Lepold (HU Berlin), Beth Lord (Aberdeen), Andreas Malm (Lund), Christoph Menke (Frankfurt), Karen Ng (Vanderbilt), Oliver Precht (ZfL Berlin), Rupert Read (East Anglia), Francesca Raimondi (Düsseldorf), Eva von Redecker (Verona), Frank Ruda (Dundee), Eric-John Russell (Paris), Martin Saar (Frankfurt), Christian Schmidt (HU Berlin), Johannes-Georg Schülein (Bochum), Melanie Sehgal (Wuppertal), Oxana Timofeeva (St. Petersburg), Slavoj Žižek (Ljubljana)

Registration

Space is limited. If you would like to attend the conference, please register in advance. The registration process will open on October 5, 2022 and will be available on the website of the ICI Berlin.

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“/imagine …”, by thokhu/Midjourney