This week, I attended the Anthropocene Feminism conference at the Center for 21st Century Studies in Milwaukee. There, I spoke as part of a hugely enjoyable all-female (!) geophilosophy panel with Jessi Lehman and Stephanie Wakefield (organised by Rory Rowan, Elizabeth Johnson and Harlan Morehouse). On this occasion, I decided not to put together a standard paper, but something that could be described as an experiment in lyrical prose. It discusses Simone Weil’s amor fati (love of the order of the world) and Hannah Arendt’s amor mundi (love of the world). I have uploaded it here. Comments appreciated!
I would also like to thank the conference organisers for facilitating conversations between academics from such a diverse range of subjects, and Lee Mackinnon (check out her blog ‘The Speculative Ceiling’ for Anthropocene themed short stories and poems) for invaluable comments on earlier drafts.
Rona Lee from Northumbria University has been advertising for art PhD studentships, so am passing them on, in case of interest. Some of them have an art-science, art-geography and art-philosophy theme:
Imaging & Imagining Fundamental Science
Principal Supervisor: Fiona Crisp, Reader in Fine Art.
‘Meeting Place’ Practice performed across the disciplines
Principal Supervisor: Christine Borland, BALTIC Professor.
Abstract Geology – Critically Engaged Fine Art Practices of the post human within a new geologic era
Principal Supervisor: Dr Rona Lee, Professor of Fine Art.
Curatorial approaches, activities and attitudes within the practice of contemporary art
Principal Supervisor: Dr Joanne Tatham, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art
Improvisatory action: the unpredictable and the unforeseen in site-responsive performance art.
Principal Supervisor: Dr Sandra Johnston, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art
Performing Philosophy/Philosophising Performance
Principal Supervisor: Dr Cormac Power, Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts
Models of Meaning and Practice: Synergies Between Paper Conservation and Contemporary Fine Art
Principal Supervisor: Dr Jane Colbourne, Senior Lecturer in Conservation
Image: Semiotext(e) Whitney Biennial pamphlets 2014
I’ve written a short post on Simone Weil for WomanTheory blog (if you haven’t already, please write one, too!). The theme of the post (published this morning) uncannily fitted in with the rest of the day, which ended with a powerful talk by Jennifer Doyle on ‘Campus Security’ (her invitation to the talk included the phrase ‘come and get ANRGY!’, to give you an idea). Doyle presented a very visceral account of the troubled relationship between students, academics and society through the increasing privatisation of the university, for many Americans epitomised by the infamous ‘pepper spray cop’ image and the reactions to it (which included the ridicule of students). It was interesting to hear more of the backstory to that image, especially about the silencing of the police officer in question who had initially proposed a much more sensible approach than university management. Post-talk discussions included university branding strategies past and present, UK vs US modes of securitisation and management, and possible ways for academics to affect university management (e.g. through committee work). Interestingly, Doyle’s talk was based on an essay for the Semiotext(e) contribution to the 2014 Whitney Biennial, which also features Simone Weil’s ‘Note on the Abolition of All Political Parties’. Can’t wait to re-read both Doyle and Weil!
WomanTheory blog is looking for YOU to write 500 words on the woman thinker/theorist/writer who influenced you most. Have already signed up!
They also have a couple of events on – one at Warwick on ‘Feminist ‘turns’ and the political economy of knowledge production’ and one at London Southbank University on ‘Critical Diversities: Policies, Practices and Perspectives’.
Today, I belatedly visited the ‘Foreign Bodies – Common Ground’ exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. The exhibition presents the work of the ‘Art in Global Health’ scheme, during which six artists undertook residencies at scientific research centres around the world: Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, the UK and Vietnam. Despite their different local contexts and artistic approaches, the artists shared a common concern with the tensions between ‘experts and ‘lay public’. The (giant!) exhibition booklet emphasised the ‘exclusionary hierarchies and impenetrable languages’ produced by specialisation – whether it is disciplinary boundaries (where even experts cannot understand one another across fields) or the ‘ivory tower’ image of research. While this theme is not new, the exhibition recognises correctly that the problem persists and continues to call for new approaches that address local contexts.
Behind the scenes of Pata Picha.
One of the memorable images from a film in the exhibition showed a stark contrast between a high tech research centre that was located right across from a field of improvised shacks where poor, local people lived. Such contrasts prompted the question of possible interactions (or obligations, as scientist Michael Parker put it) between locals and researchers, which the some of the artists took as starting points. In many ways, the artworks, and especially the processes that lead to them, sought to operate as bridges. In the exhibition, this bridging between discourses was frequently symbolised through resituated ‘boundary objects’: labcoats that contained elements of Kenyan dress (see photo above), laboratories that are crossed with living rooms, surgical gloves that float in the air like fragile jellyfish. Other means of translation included physical theatre, as in the work of the B-Floor Theatre from Bangkok, participatory photography, as in the work of Zwelethu Mthethwa, or housing decoration, music and language inventions, as in the work of Elson Kambalu. As the exbibition commentary emphasised, translation is often not only needed between researchers and the local lay people, but amongst researchers and locals themselves: both locals and researchers were made up of different ethnic groups, speaking up to 24 languages amongst themselves.
In addition, some of the artworks dealt with the scepticism with which the so-called ‘non-experts’ encounter scientific intervention. Examples included Lêna Bùi’s ‘feather sorters’ in a Vietnamese village who only reluctantly participated in the artwork after their negative experiences (enforced change of practices, relocation of industry, job loss) with avian flu management. Despite their geographic removedness, the experiences of the feather sorters are likely to resonate with farmers who were negatively affected by food and mouth disease or BSE management strategies. Common ground, indeed!
Double still from Lêna Bùi’s ‘Where birds dance their last‘. Source: Wellcome Collection.
A further theme that ran through the exhibition was proliferation, expressed through the ‘spreading’ of ideas and viruses. Scientists interviewed in the films (show on small screens dotted around the exhibition) frequently mentioned that they feel that they are agents in a ‘messy battlefield’: they get a sense of the organisms’ desire to live while they are trying to find ways of protecting their own species against it. Further, they emphasised the need to explore things at a societal as well as a ‘micro level’, as microbiologist Peter Piot suggested. Indeed, the ‘modern demands’ could be described as one of those societal pressures that change a myriad of practices – and intimacies. Some of the installations focused on such changing relations, as well as the possible two-way direction of this transformation: what consumption and production practices promote less disease (modern? traditional? is the mixture the problem?)? What is modern medicine teaching to ‘developing’ countries? What is it learning from its previous interactions with these countries to improve its ethics or communication? What kind of assumptions does ‘modern medicine’ hold about ‘traditional medicine’ and its different kinds of intimacy? There is one poignant example in the booklet where a researcher looks the drawing of a rhino in a medicine-related painting and wonders whether it signifies some superstitious believe in the medicinal properties of rhino horn. It turns out that the painter of the rhino added it to make the scenery ‘less boring’, thus making the researcher question her own expectations.
What struck me during the exhibition was the installations’ ambition to function as a two-way engagement: the pieces had to work in the local as well as the Wellcome context. I thought about how some of the most engaging artworks in a local context might not necessarily make an equally engaging exhibition object (one could argue, of course, that art does not have to ‘work’ in the same way in different spaces – see e.g. the ‘relational aesthetics’ debate – but that requires another blog post!). For instance, the comparatively static representations of sculptures, photographs and theatre-on-film communicate their ideas, but perhaps do not involve exhibition visitors to the same degree as the people who were involved in their production. This was partly ‘remedied’ by the presence of Wellcome staff who involved visitors in discussions (or vice versa). During my visit, for instance, a lively discussion evolved around Katie Paterson’s ‘Fossil Necklace’, a necklace made of chronologically arranged fossil beads that emerged from her work in a Cambridge DNA lab. Like me, other visitors were struck by the way the magnifying glasses, that were distributed at the entrance to the room in which the necklace was exhibited, made the fossil beads look like planets: each geologic period appearing as literally another world.
Detail from Katie Paterson’s ‘Fossil Necklace’. Source: Wellcome Collection.
Generally, the layout of the exhibition seemed to promote visitor interaction, as I witnessed (and participated in) more discussions – around the ‘feather village’ work tasks, the different visitors’ explorations of the Pata Picha photography set, or the history of experimentation on colonial subjects that is still on many people’s minds today (here, some books on colonialism and medicine could have been added to the library and reading list that accompanied the exhibition). The ‘Pata Picha’ set even made me venture down to the Wellcome shop to try to borrow one of the giant fluffy microbes I had seen earlier: I desperately wanted to take a picture of me in the ‘humanised’ lab coat examining a ‘humanised’ virus with the stethoscope to carry on the artists’ mission (they might disagree with me here!). Sadly (or for the better?), I wasn’t allowed to temporarily abduct one, so no further boundary object (foreign body?) was introduced…
In case you want to visit – and experiment – in the exhibition yourself, ‘Foreign Bodies – Common Ground’ has been extended until 16 March 2014 (thanks Russell Dornan for the info!) at the Wellcome Collection in London (opposite Euston Station). Free entry!
Call for Papers: Royal Geographical Society with IBG Annual Conference, London, 27-29 August 2014.
Session convenor: Mark Jackson (University of Bristol)
Much recent debate within, but mostly beyond, geography has focused on the future of postcolonial studies and postcolonial theory: how to advance it, whether it is relevant, or, indeed, whether anything of it remains viable. Within the recent debates, one interesting question has emerged as important: how can postcolonialism remain vital and responsive to burgeoning colonial legacies, and, at the same, account for, and theorize, non-human ethical and political imperatives? Some claim it’s a particular difficulty for postcolonial studies and, perhaps, an incommensurable dilemma for progressive politics in the Anthropocene (Chakrabarty, 2012). Others advocate an aesthetic and/or ‘planetary’ politics of the aporia (Jazeel, 2013; Spivak, 2012; Wainwright, 2013). Still others say postcolonialism simply needs to be more committed to the textual, and hence historically materialist, basis of its political critique (Lazarus, 2011).
But these arguments are also set against an increasingly shifting theoretical domain within the humanities and social sciences, no more so than in geography. Political ontology, posthumanism, new materialism, multinaturalism, postconstructivism, transcorporeality, more-than-human concerns, object oriented approaches, cosmopolitics, assemblages, process, and agencement, nature/cultures, etc., etc. are all shaping the discipline in interesting and increasingly influential ways. In so doing, these shifts are also asking important questions of postcolonial orthodoxy.
This conference session seeks contributions that explore the relationships between these often divergent and sometimes mutually skeptical domains. Is postcolonialism commensurable with political ontology? How? Can we create productive bridges between the widely embraced ‘material’ or ‘relational’ turns and the, perhaps, traditional textualisms of postcolonial studies? Can political ontology liberate postcolonial politics from, what Latour terms, the perpetual navel gazing of an aporetic ethics? Or, is the posthuman only approachable as impossibility and through the aesthetic? Do postcolonial geographies need to entertain relational approaches? If they do, how do they risk categories of political commitment? How do postcolonial assumptions of the political need to change with relational approaches? Or do they? What is posthumanism risking by neglecting the many elective affinities with post colonialism?
The session seeks papers addressing these and other questions. Areas of focus could include, but are no means limited to:
- Postcolonialism and nature/cultures
- Planetarity and posthumanism
- Materiality and postcolonial geographies
- Indigeneity, postcolonial geographies, and posthumanism
- Postcolonial aesthetics and political ontology
- Affect and postcolonial geographies
- Experimentalism and postcolonial politics
- Postcolonial sociality and posthumanism
Please send paper titles, an abstract of 200-300 words, and contact details to Mark Jackson email@example.com by 14 February 2014.
Refs: Chakrabarty, D. 2012. ‘Postcolonial Studies and the Challenge of Climate Change’ New Literary History 43:1, 1-18; Jazeel, T. 2013. Sacred Modernity (Liverpool University Press); Lazarus, N. 2011. The Postcolonial Unconscious (Cambridge University Press); Spivak, G.C. 2012. An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (Harvard University Press); Wainwright, J. 2013. Geopiracy (Palgrave).
Unnatural Futures Conference
Dates: 3 & 4 July, 2014
Venue: Centre for the Arts, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.
From genetically modified foods to zombie apocalypse, concerns about the future
are increasingly reflected in contemporary media, policy and culture. An
“unnatural future” is being shaped by rapidly escalating anxieties about the
social, cultural, environmental and technological risks that now pervade
everyday life. This climate of fear and uncertainty about the future requires
careful consideration around how best to respond and intervene in debates,
discussion and media representations around our “unnatural future”.
This conference brings together researchers from a range of academic
disciplines, including those from the social sciences, humanities, and
agricultural and environmental studies, to address the following questions: how
do we imagine the future? What are the methodologies or theories that may help
navigate these potential futures? The intention is to share and explore views
of the possible natural and unnatural futures that loom large on the horizon.
We welcome papers that focus on (but are not limited to):
* Environmental disaster and crime
* Apocalypse, utopia and dystopia
* Food security, climate change, genetic technologies
* Science fiction and horror
* Artificial or virtual bodies and spaces
* Technology and human development, the posthuman and nonhuman
* Industry and corporate interventions in social and environmental
* Activism, resistance, protest
* Experiencing the anthropocene
* Speculative fiction, science, research and theory
* Inhabiting or representing unnatural futures
Professor Nigel Clark (Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University)
Professor Lesley Head (The Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental
Research; University of Wollongong)
Applications and abstracts: 31 January 2014
Notification of acceptance: 28 February 2014
Submission of abstracts or panel proposals: E-mail the conference contact
the following information:
A 250-word abstract in MS Word (doc or docx) format
Your full name as you would like it to appear in the conference booklet
Contact information (email)
A short biography including academic affiliation
Craig Norris – Journalism, Media & Communications, University of Tasmania
Michelle Phillipov – Journalism, Media & Communications, University of
Felicity Picken – AHURI Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Tasmania
Yvette Watt – Tasmanian College of the Arts, University of Tasmania
The SCHOOL OF GEOGRAPHICAL AND EARTH SCIENCES at the UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW welcomes applications for ESRC PhD studentships for 2014/15.
As part of the Human Geography Pathway of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SAS), the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences (GES), University of Glasgow, invites applications for the following studentship awards:
‘Pathway’ studentships – the Pathway has SIX studentships to award (Deadline for applications to Glasgow: Thursday 6th February 2014; selected applicants to be registered with SAS by 21st February; interviews on 25th March, all those shortlisted must attend interview). Studentships are available as ’1+3′ and ‘+3′ awards.
‘Open’ studentships – up to TEN studentships available in SGS. Any applicant who is unsuccessful in the ‘Pathway’ studentships competition, but who passes a quality threshold, will be entered into the Open competition. Studentships are available as ’1+3′ and ‘+3′ awards.
‘Collaborative’ studentships – up to NINE studentships available in SGS. Projects to be developed with an academic at Glasgow, and a partner in the private, public or third sector (Deadline: 10th February).
*We also encourage applications to interdisciplinary pathways in the SGS:
Families, Relationships and Demographic Change; Environment, Climate Change and Energy; Health; and Advanced Quantitative Methods.
In particular, GES welcome applications in the following research areas:
• Geographic Thought and Practice
• Experimental Methodologies and Geographies
• Political Geographies and Militarism
• Political Cultures of Internationalism
• Historical Geographies of Labour and Resistance
• Translocal Movements
• Critical (Subaltern and Feminist) Geopolitics
• Urban Neoliberalism and its Contestations
• Global Urbanism in Comparative Perspective
• Emotional and Embodied Geographies
• Mental Health and Illness
• Environmental Health and Development
• Environmental Change and Climate Justice
• Social Geographies of the Natural Sciences
• Geographies of Children and Childhoods
• Historical-Cultural Geographies of Landscape
• Animal Geographies and More-than-Human Geographies
• Questioning Scottish Heritage
Specific details of research in the School of GES are available at:
Any initial inquiries should be addressed to: Professor Deborah Dixon (Pathway Representative) Deborah.Dixon@glasgow.ac.uk
For further information and details of application process: http://www.socsciscotland.ac.uk/
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan offers three fellowships in the areas of architectural research and instruction. Each of the fellowships includes teaching related to the candidate’s area of interest, resources for the development of work, possibilities to interface with scholars and researchers in the wider university context, and the opportunity to share the outcome of the fellowship with the College. Fellows spend one year in residence and teach three classes in addition to pursuing their fellowship interests. Applications are due by January 7, 2014 with interviews planned for February 2014.
Design / Muschenheim Fellowship
The Muschenheim Fellowship offers design instructors early in their career the opportunity to develop a body of work in the context of teaching. Muschenheim fellows play a significant role in the definition of studio culture while pursuing their own creative endeavors. Proposals for the Muschenheim Fellowship focus upon the development of a specific project individually or with students, outside of teaching or center upon a particular set of pedagogical themes to be engaged in the studio context.
Muschenheim Digital Archive at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.
Project / Oberdick Fellowship
The Oberdick Project Fellowship facilitates the development and realization of a significant exploration into some aspect of architectural speculation and production. Fellows are provided with resources for the execution of a project that may take the form of an exhibit, publication, installation, or any other material construction. Projects may range from the exploration of emergent building, fabrication, and environmental technologies to the realization of architectural works and endeavors typically unsupported within conventional models of practice.
Research / Sanders Fellowship
The Sanders Fellowship supports individuals with significant, compelling and timely research dealing with architectural issues. Research could dwell within architectural, urban, landscape, or cultural history or theory; architectural or environmental technology; or design studies. These agendas could emerge from recently-completed doctoral dissertations or other intense and rigorous research format. The fellowship will support both research and the development of research-related curriculum.
Applicants should send a letter explaining their interest in the position, curriculum vitae, portfolio and the names and contact information for three references. Send materials indicating desired position on the envelope to: Chair, Architecture Fellowship Search, University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, 2000 Bonisteel Boulevard, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. If you wish materials returned, please enclose postage paid return packaging. The University of Michigan is a nondiscriminatory, affirmative action employer.
Taubman College Metropolitan Detroit Fellows
Academic Year Fellowship 2013-2014
Each year Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (Taubman) selects 4-6 recent alumni of its Architecture Program to conduct research on metropolitan Detroit and post-industrial issues affecting the city and its region; and to participate as instructional faculty in a program that offers instruction in architecture and design to high school sophomores and juniors in the Detroit metropolitan area.
Each Fellow has a one-year appointment as Metropolitan Detroit Fellow in Taubman College and a one-year appointment as a Taubman Architecture High School Fellow in the Taubman Architecture High School Dual Enrollment Program. This appointment is not tenure-track. The current annual stipend is $32,000. Fellows are eligible for participation in the University health , dental and life insurance programs. Each fellow is expected to teach the equivalent of one academic year, i.e., a total of two terms during the period of the fellowship. Any subsequent appointment of a Fellow to a position at the University of Michigan would be subject to the rules governing new appointments.
Publications / Written Reports
Fellows are asked to cite their affiliation with the Taubman Fellows program in any publications that result from work done during their tenure and to provide Taubman College with copies of such published work. At the end of each fellowship year, Fellows are asked to submit a written report on their activities and accomplishments during the year.
Postgraduate Fellows share their work in progress. Fellows are expected to participate in colloquia, attend dinners, and to engage in conversation with other members about their intellectual interests. They may be selected to participate in the annual evaluation of new applicants for the Fellowship.
Application Deadline: The application deadline is Friday, August 16, 2013, 3:00PM EDT
Milton S. F. Curry, Associate Dean
Angela Lee, Program Administrator
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
2000 Bonisteel Blvd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2069
For more information, please visit this page.
PhD Studentships in Cultural and Historical Geography at the University of Glasgow, 2014-15
The School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow is pleased to invite applications for +3 PhD studentships, through its involvement in the recently announced AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership Scotland (involving the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, St. Andrews, Strathclyde, Stirling, Aberdeen and Glasgow School of Art).
The School Geographical and Earth Sciences (GES) welcomes student proposals which relate to existing research strengths in the following areas:
· Cultural geography
· Historical geography
· Landscape studies
· Historical geographies of science
· Historical geographies of resistance and labour
· Art-Science collaborations
· Arts, health and well-being
· Performance and ecology
Applications encompassing an interdisciplinary aspect are particularly welcomed.
Studentships are available to applicants living in the UK and the European Union. For full details on eligibility, please visit: http://www.sgsah.ac.uk
Applicants with a Masters degree (or currently studying for a Masters qualification) will be prioritised. To be considered for an award, candidates must also have applied to study at the University of Glasgow and have provided two academic references through the university’s application system. Further details, guidance notes and the application form can be found at: http://www.gla.ac.uk/colleges/arts/graduateschool/fundingopportunities/
The deadline for all scholarship applications is: Monday 13 January 2014.
Within the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, prospective applicants with enquiries should contact Deborah Dixon, Head of Graduate Studies (Deborah.Dixon@glasgow.ac.uk<mailto:Deborah.Dixon@glasgow.ac.uk>) or Hayden Lorimer, Human Geography Research Group (Hayden.Lorimer@Glasgow.ac.uk<mailto:Hayden.Lorimer@Glasgow.ac.uk>).
Details of research in the School of GES are available at: