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Con­fer­ence 2022 "Re­think­ing Envi­ron­ment"

In late June, the Inter­na­tional Doc­torate Pro­gram "Re­think­ing Envi­ron­ment", fund­ed by the Elite Net­work of Ba­varia, held its first Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence, “Am­biva­lences of Eco­logi­cal Trans­for­mation”, at­tend­ed by guest speakers, inter­na­tional schol­ars, advi­sors, speakers, PhD stu­dents, and coor­dina­tors. The event took place at the Uni­versi­ty of Augsburg and online. 

Ambivalences of Ecological Transformation Conference

“Am­biva­lences of Eco­logi­cal Trans­for­mation” was the first inter­na­tional con­fer­ence host­ed by the International Doctorate Program "Rethinking Environment". In late June, schol­ars from dif­ferent coun­tries and disci­plines gath­ered at the Uni­versi­ty of Augsburg to pre­sent on envi­ron­men­tal topics and dis­cuss chal­leng­es, per­spec­tives, and new paths for eco­logi­cal trans­for­mation.
IDK speaker and chair of geog­raphy at Uni­versi­ty of Augsburg Mat­thias Schmidt wel­comed the con­fer­ence partic­ipants ad­dress­ing the need for knowledge ex­change be­tween aca­dem­ics and socie­ty in order to face the cli­mate crisis. Next, politi­cal scien­tist Na­talie Rauscher opened the first panel, fol­lowed by liter­ary theory schol­ar W. P. Małecki and econ­omist Olliv­ier Bodin. They ana­lyzed uncer­tainty and con­tradiction in envi­ron­men­tal news, de­bates, and poli­cies, high­light­ing the role of lan­guage, nar­ra­tives, and crea­tivity in medi­ating com­muni­cation for eco­logi­cal trans­for­mation.
The con­fer­ence con­tinued with presenta­tions by histo­rian and an­thropol­ogist Se­bas­tian Lundsteen, ar­chae­ol­ogist and vol­can­ol­ogist Karen Holmberg, histo­rian Simo­ne Mül­ler, and hu­man geog­rapher Ange­liki Bal­lay­annis. They pre­sent­ed ways of chal­leng­ing estab­lished di­chot­omies within envi­ron­men­tal dis­cours­es through case stud­ies on toxici­ty and pollu­tion.
The first day ended with the key­note lec­ture “Get­ting to Zero: Inter­disci­pli­narity, Inter­sec­tional­ity, and Emo­tions in Social Re­sponses to Cli­mate Change,” by envi­ron­men­tal soci­ol­ogist Debra Da­vid­son, PhD, from the Uni­versi­ty of Alber­ta. 

A roundtable opened the fol­low­ing morn­ing, chaired by IDK speaker Simo­ne Mül­ler, with the partic­ipa­tion of envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies and an­thropology schol­ar Anne Radema­cher, the re­nowned expert on “Cul­tural Ecol­ogy,” Hu­bert Zapf, the Amer­ican stud­ies schol­ar Kirsten Twelbeck, and Mar­cus Wag­ner, who teach­es man­age­ment and sus­taina­ble busi­ness at Augsburg Uni­versi­ty. In the ses­sion titled “I beg to dif­fer,” con­tribu­tors dis­cuss­ed termi­nolo­gies of ex­press­ing dif­feren­ti­ation, in­clud­ing the dis­cours­es and power dy­nam­ics un­derly­ing the con­cept of “am­biva­lence.”
Con­tradiction and trans­for­mation in litera­ture was the theme of the next panel, in which pre­sent­ed liter­ary schol­ars Lisa Höller, Ma­rina Ping­ler, and Jona­than Sarfin, to­gether with pro­fessor of Iberi­an litera­ture stud­ies Victor Fer­retti. The panel ex­plored topics in neo­colo­nial­ism, mate­rial mod­erni­za­tion, cli­mate fic­tion, narra­tive, and dys­topi­anism. In the ensu­ing ses­sion, “Am­biva­lent In­dustries,” histo­rian Jesse Ritner and hu­man geog­rapher Raph­ael West­pfahl ex­plored the inter­sec­tion of eco­nomic and com­muni­ty adap­tation in the con­text of eco­logi­cal transi­tions.
Facili­tated by the IDK PhD stu­dents, two paral­lel work­shops of­fered reflec­tions on envi­ron­men­tal am­biva­lences within cli­mate change aes­thet­ics and car­tography. Final­ly, Frank Uekötter, pro­fessor of envi­ron­men­tal hu­mani­ties at the Uni­versi­ty of Bir­ming­ham, closed day two with the key­note lec­ture “Will We Ever Come to Terms with the Green Revo­lu­tion?”, a histor­ical reflec­tion on mon­ocul­tures, the chal­lenges of global food sup­ply, and the ine­quali­ties of inno­va­tion.
The final con­fer­ence day brought affili­ate re­searcher Rocío Hiral­do and PhD can­didate Nisha Pali­wal; their presentation ad­dressed the politi­cal, social, and cul­tural limits of eco­logi­cal transi­tions in Southern Eu­rope and India. Last­ly, partic­ipants en­joyed an­other round of paral­lel work­shops by re­searchers In­drawan Prabahar­yaka, Teresa Staudt, and François Dumont, focus­ing on com­plexi­ty in eth­nography re­search and emo­tional re­sponses to cli­mate change.

Text: Talitta Reitz (RCC Mu­nich), Kirsten Twelbeck (Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence Cen­ter Augsburg), Felix Burzler (Uni­versi­ty of Augsburg).