Call for Papers: Ambivalences of Ecological Transformation. Perspectives from the Environmental Humanities

Sophia Hörl's picture

Date: 24–26 June 2022

Organizers: This conference is organized by the International Doctoral Program (IDK) Um(Welt)Denken.
Environmental Humanities
 and the Ecological Transformation of Society, a joint international graduate
program of Augsburg University and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society,
LMU, funded by the Elite Network of Bavaria.

Transformations are urgently needed, politically, ecologically, and socially. All over the world, there
exists a consensus on the necessity of social-ecological change to combat some of the direst
environmental issues, ranging from climate change and biodiversity loss to aridification, and the
toxic pandemic. Yet, this consensus rapidly evaporates, once measures become concrete, and
tensions arise over at what and whose costs necessary changes are implemented.
Ambivalences, ambiguities, tensions, paradoxes, or pitfalls—there are many terms associated with
the same phenomenon—namely that late 20th and 21st centuries environmental governance and
policy has maneuvered itself into an apparent dilemma. Conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings
towards the same object, are integral to the painfully slow political and social negotiation and
transformation processes, a paralysis almost, to save planet Earth at a time when many scientists
and activists assert that the house is already on fire and anti-Environmentalists continue pivoting
growth against sustainability. In industrial countries, some point to the need of a technologically
driven ecological modernization, while others underline the externalization of environmental costs
and our “imperial mode of living”. Many emerging economies cling to their “right to pollute” on
a pathway to first overcome poverty before pollution, citing centuries of colonial exploitation and
global injustice. In the renewable energy sector, for instance, models struggle with the fact that
palm oil farms are destroying large areas of rainforest, one of the most important CO2 sinks to
combat climate change. These growing tensions, finally, also have become a test for democracy as
Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and other activist groups have taken their frustration over the
political paralysis to the streets, and several governments around the world are facing resistance or
even liability suits from their citizens for their climate protection policies and necessary

What forms of ambivalences exist towards needed ecological transformations and how are they articulated? Which
(communication) models, new approaches or ethics may help to move beyond? A number of different
disciplines, ranging from Environmental Ethics, Environmental History, Human Geography,
Economics, and Ecocriticism, have sought to understand the stalemate of environmental
transformation and are musing on ways to move beyond. Under the umbrella of the inter- and
transdisciplinary Environmental Humanities, this international conference Ambivalences of Ecological
Transformation. Perspectives form the Environmental Humanities seeks to (1) tease out different modes of
and discourses on ambivalences impairing ecological transformation and to (2) discuss new
(scholarly, practical, and communicative) approaches to move beyond. We invite
contributions and interventions on topics relating to these two issues from both junior and senior
scholars, science-communicators, and practitioners. As an exercise in interdisciplinary research, we
are also keen (3) on establishing a shared vocabulary and common language for understanding
and working with ambivalences as a concept in Environmental Humanities and also invite
conceptual reflections. We intend an edited publication based on paper presentations and

We aim for this conference to happen in-person if the pandemic situation allowed. Organizers will
cover participants’ accommodation.

Paper Submissions

Please send your presentation proposal with title, abstract (max 400 words) and a short bio by
March 1, 2022, to:

Early submissions are welcome. Successful applicants will be notified on a rolling basis by March
31st, 2022.

If you have questions concerning the conference, please contact Talitta Reitz, IDK program