Workshop: Exploring Unruly Sites of More-than-Human Entanglements (19/20 May 2022, Berlin)

At a time when everyday life is increasingly affected by and contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss at an alarming rate, it seems pressing to be more sensitive to unintended relations in unfamiliar sites to foster the repositioning of humans in a more-than-human world. A world, that has ever since been more-than-human. Time to approach it. Thus, we want to take these entanglements seriously in the processes that shape the so-called Anthropocene.  

In this context, investigating what Bettina Stoetzer (2018) calls ‘ruderal worlds’ that emerge spontaneously in disturbed environments, can provide insights into the interplay between human-built structures and multispecies worlds, co-constituting the environment we live in. Such intertwined relationalities become particularly tangible in remote and past places, such as brownfields, post-industrial ruins, but also in cracks of sidewalks and along infrastructures (cf. Grime 1997). In this context, ‘unintended ecologies’ (Stoetzer 2018) that are a result of human-built structures that represent order, and what appears to be recalcitrant and unplanned, remain in a twilight zone between wild and domesticated. Indeed, these places exhibit a “(…) patchiness, that is a mosaic of open-ended assemblages of entangled life” (Tsing 2017: 4) that can go beyond the locality of a site. In ruins of progress- and growth-oriented modes of ordering time and space astonishing multispecies connections can be revealed that challenge dichotomies and prevailing classification systems about center/periphery, purity/toxicity and progress/stagnancy.

As a result of unusual and seemingly unruly connections, assemblages of entangled life are contesting heteronormative and exclusive notions of what is recognized and valued and what is not. In this context, environmental justice issues with regard to slow violence (Nixon 2013) and necropolitical effects (Mbembe 2003) play a role as well as the question of who is able to claim ‘urban citizenship’ (e.g., Lazar 2014) or count as a political actor. So how, as Tara Mehrabi (2020: 141) also asks, “can we reimagine nature, life and death from the position of the exploited, the disposed, the contaminated, the toxic (…)?” A question we want to explore in the workshop – with the aim of uncovering the potential of these sites for the reconsideration and repositioning of human beings in an age of extinction.

Therefore, we invite you to examine this potential in a workshop ­- both in an explorative and practical part as well as in a theoretical exchange. There is also the possibility to participate in the two-day workshop without a presentation to explore some of these unruly sites in Berlin. In case you like to attend with a presentation we welcome abstracts (300 words) on the following and similar topics:

  • multispecies infrastructures, multispecies ontologies
  • living and working in postindustrial/marginal spaces
  • material politics of queer ecologies
  • the potential of ruined sites for (urban) transformations
  • knowledge controversies between predominant and (hetero-)normative understandings of life/death, purity/toxicity, or else
  • multiple temporalities that are enacted through re/entanglements
  • explorative methods in times of accelerating environmental change

Following Anna Tsing’s (2017: 281f) intention that “projects for rebuilding curiosity (…) are essential work for living with others”, we want to encounter these places by using ethnographic methods, such as creative writing, photography, drawing, mixed media, or soundscapes to incite new ideas and thoughts. Finally, bringing these results into wider attention, we would like to exhibit them on our website. To participate in the workshop (without presentation) it is enough to send us a short email with the subject ‚Registration for Workshop Berlin‘ with your name, affiliation and a short statement about your motivation to participate in the workshop.

Sources: Lazar, Sian (2014): Citizenship. In: Donald M. Nonini (Hg.), A Companion to Urban Anthropology. Oxford, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 65–81.
Mbembe, Achille (2019): Necropolitics. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Mehrabi, Tara (2020): Queer Ecologies of Death in the Lab: Rethinking Waste, Decomposition and Death through a Queerfeminist Lens. In: Australian Feminist Studies 35/104, 138–154.
Nixon, Rob (2013): Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.
Stoetzer, Bettina (2018): Ruderal Ecologies: Rethinking Nature, Migration, and the Urban Landscape in Berlin. In: Cultural Anthropology 33/2, 295–323.
Tsing, Anna L. (2017): The mushroom at the end of the world. On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Vergangene Veranstaltungen

Workshop Loss & Hope: Contemporary debates in Environmental Anthropology (18/19 October 2018, Tübingen)

A networking meeting hosted by the working group on environmental anthropology of the German Association of Social and Cultural Anthropologists (DGSKA), Kiel University and the University of Tübingen. You can find the Workshop Program here

Logo der Universität Tübingen

CAU Kiel