Workshop ‘Critical geography and new materialism’ – A first documentation

The Forschungswerkstatt Kritische Geographie/Critical Geography Research Workshop took place in Berlin this year, june 14-16 – and we participated with a workshop entitled “Critical Geography and New Materialism”. To our surprise there was a huge interest in the workshop – we had to change the room for the salon to be able to host all the participants. As a first round of questions showed that many were generally interested, but did not have a lot of pre-knowledge, we started with a basic introduction: What is ‘critical geography’ about? And what is ‘new materialism’?

We then split into three groups who worked each about one question:
1. How can the approaches of ‘new materialisms’ can be used in a productive way within critical geography?
2. Which problems may arise combining these approaches with critical geography?
3. Which theoretical, methodological and empiric examples exist that can be used or combined for a “critical new materialism”?
After a very productive group work session we came back together to present our results to each other – realizing that many point from all three groups related to siminlar, cross-cutting topics, among them:
– problems of dealing with hierarchies and power relations that are central to critical geography in these new materialist approaches
– the question of how to attribute responsibility
– how to go beyond the merely descriptive, ‘singular-case’ perspective of many new materialist studies, how to combine these with systemic or comparative approaches, related to questions of scale

There was no time to address all theses issues in detail – but we also collected a range of of examples that could be used to discuss these issues further – from within geography, but also from related disciplines and fields like anthropology, urban studies and planning, environmental history, feminist STS or sociology.

As there was a huge interest among many of the participants to discuss these questions further, we decided to continue working on the topic. We are about to set up a mailing list and a common ‘webspace’ or blog where there will be also a full documentation of the results. Thanks to all the participants for the great discussions and hope to see you soon at the next meeting!

Conference in Berlin: ‘Nature’ in the MENA region

In January 2018 the Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), Berlin, is organizing the conference Appropriations, Representations, Productions: Engagements with ‘Nature’ in the MENA region from the 19th century till today.

In the MENA region, human engagements with and appropriations of ‘nature’ date back millennia. More recently, fundamental socio-environmental transformations under the auspices of capitalism and increasing economic entanglements since the 19th century, and successive waves of neoliberal reform since the 1980s have  profoundly restructured rural and urban environments in the region […]. But research on environmental transformations and their repercussions in the MENA is still scarce compared to other regions of the Global South. Although the ways in which social and economic activity, new technologies and forms of commodification are changing human relations to ‘nature’ have lately received considerable scholarly attention […], general discussions on the conceptualisation of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ only rarely give due attention to the MENA; a region which, as it is sometimes considered deeply ‘cultural’, could challenge notions of ‘pristine nature’”.

Read the full Call for Paper. Interested visitors are invited to join.

Auf dem Markt der Rechte

Alles wird zur Ware, und was Ware ist, ist (ver)handelbar – auch grundlegende Rechte. Der Blog Klima der Gerechtigkeit der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung verweist auf ein neues Gesetz zur Nachhaltigkeit in Ghana (Sustainable Development Law, SDL), das die Regierung dort am 1. August 2014 beschlossen hat. Dieses sieht vor, einen Markt für Nachhaltigkeitskredite zu schaffen  – Firmen, die etwa bei der Rohstoffförderung natürliche Resourcen zerstören oder Ökosysteme verändern, können dies dann durch Maßnahmen an anderen Orten oder anderen Feldern “ausgleichen”. Diese Art der (äußerst umstrittenen) Ausgleichsmaßnahmen gibt es bereits in vielen westlichen und südlichen Staaten, insbesondere im Bereich Biodiversität und Klimaschutz, sie sind Teil der Maßnahmen, mit denen die Umweltgesetzgebung seit den 1990er Jahren “flexibilisiert” wurde. So verwundert es auch nicht,  dass von der Europäischen Kommission finanzierte Experten an der Ausarbeitung der Details und der Umsetzung in Ghana beteiligt sind.

Bemerkenswert ist jedoch, dass sich das Gesetz nicht auf mehr auf Umweltgesetze beschränkt – in den neu zu schaffenden Kreditmarkt werden auch Menschen- und Gemeinschaftsrechte einbezogen.

Auf dem Markt der Rechte weiterlesen

Precarious times

“The sense of revolutionary times triggered by recent events such as the Greek revolts, the Indignados and Occupy movements, as well as the Arab uprisings and the Idle No More protests in Canada, has been gradually overshadowed by a wave of virulent and violent responses by both state and global powers. Although these and other struggles have captured our imagination, an anxious feeling of being in a permanent state of crisis seems to have taken over as we observe an increase in and normalization of socio-economic and spatial inequalities and political repression against the population. This regression, which takes the form of a rise on authoritarianisms, revanchists’ responses, encroachment of fundamental rights, precarity of subsistence, social relations, employment, or the consolidation of populist right wing and fundamentalist movements, is to a large extent eclipsing and undermining the political space and fundamental work of individuals, communities and movements around the world. It certainly is a precarious time for radicalism. This grim landscape inevitably raises crucial questions about the current moment and its prospects. Are we witnessing and experiencing a fundamental historical shift? If so, how are we to interpret this transition? Or can these times be transformed into a moment of political possibility by reconsidering and/or expanding existing paradigms as well as by reconnecting solidarities and struggles?”

Call for Participation, 7th International Conference of Critical Geography (ICCG 2015), 26-30th July 2015, http://iccg2015.org

Auf der Suche nach dem Lokalen

Der Sammelband Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa (2011) enthält es einen interessanten Beitrag von Leila M. Harris. Er basiert auf Feldstudien, hauptsächlich ausführlichen Interviews mit der lokalen Bevölkerung im Südosten der Türkei, in jenem Gebiet, das im Rahmen des umstrittene “South-Eastern Anatolia Programme” (GAP, Great Anatolia Project, in Turkish: Güneydoðu Anadolu Projesi) “entwickelt” werden soll. Dieses größte Entwicklungsprojekt der Türkei soll unter anderem 22 Staudämme umfassen. Jenseits der kontroversen Diskussionen um das Projekt ergeben sich aus den Interviews, die Harris mit der lokal ansässigen Bevölkerung geführt hat, zwei interessante Aspekte:

Aber die interviewten Kleinbauern teilen gerade nicht die kritische Perspektive, die Umweltaktivisten, aber auch liberale Intellektuelle auf die “Entwicklung” des Gebietes und der damit verbundenen Modernisierung der Landwirtschaft haben. Sie sind vielmehr mehrheitlich der Überzeugung, dass die Probleme, die die technischen Neuerungen bisher hervorgerufen haben (etwa die Versalzung des Bodens) das Streben nach technischem “Fortschritt” nicht in Frage stellen:

“narratives reveal that farmers and state agents engage the evidence of environmental degradation to argue for more technoscience, and more state intervention, not less.” (204, Hervorhebung im Org.)

Ein Ergebnis, das Harris unter anderem auf die geradezu mythische Aufladung des Entwicklungsbegriffes zurückführt. Technischer Fortschritt in der Landwirtschaft wird als “point of entry for other possibilies wahrgenommen, perhaps even viewed as an opening for broader associations with modernity and wealth” (206). Die Moderne ist, zumindest im Südosten der Türkei, offenbar immer noch ein Versprechen.

Auf der Suche nach dem Lokalen weiterlesen

It’s 42. Or: Natural Capital

In his lecture at the University of Sheffield, “Put a price on nature? We must stop this neoliberal road to ruin”, (manuscript published online by The Guardian) journalist and environmental activist George Monbiot talked about what he called the Natural Capital Agenda:


“[…] As Thomas Piketty, a name which is on everybody’s lips at the moment, so adeptly demonstrates in his new book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, what has happened over the past thirty years or so has been a great resurgence of patrimonial capitalism, of a rentier economy, in which you make far more money either by owning capital or by positioning yourself as a true self-serving flea upon the backs of productive people, a member of an executive class whose rewards are out of all kilter with its performance or the value it delivers. You make far more money in either of those positions than you possibly can through entrepreneurial activity. If wealth under this system were the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.
So just at this moment, this perfect moment of the total moral and ideological collapse of the neoliberal capitalist system, some environmentalists stumble across it and say, “This is the answer to saving the natural world.” And they devise a series of ideas and theories and mechanisms which are supposed to do what we’ve been unable to do by other means: to protect the world from the despoilation and degradation which have done it so much harm.

It’s 42. Or: Natural Capital weiterlesen

Global climate, local forest

Dieses Blog begleitet und diskutiert das Dissertationsprojekt “Global climate, local forest”, das der Frage nachgeht, wie internationale Klimapolitik und -projekte die Struktur ländlicher Räume und die Mensch-Natur-Beziehung im Nahen Osten und Nordafrika verändern und welche Rolle verschiedene Formen und Vorstellungen von “Natur” dabei spielen. Unter Rückgriff auf Theorie und Methoden der Politischen Ökologie, Anthropologie und der Sciences studies untersucht sie am Beispiel von Waldprojekten, die in internationale Kohlenstoffmärkte eingebunden werden, wie ein solches Klimaprojekt die lokale Wälder, ihre Nutzung und Bewertung verändert, und welche veränderten Praktiken, Wissenssysteme, Naturbilder und Subjektivitäten die Interaktion von globalen (Umwelt)Politiken und lokal verankerten Praktiken des Umgangs mit Natur hervorbringt.