CFP: Elemental Media, 26th Annual Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference, UC Berkeley (08.01.2018)

Jonas Teupert's picture
Call for Papers
January 8, 2018
California, United States
Subject Fields: 
German History / Studies
Elemental Media
26th Annual Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference
University of California, Berkeley
March 9-10, 2018
Fire, earth, air, water – the typological order of the elements, dating back to ancient Greece, has shaped the experience of human life worlds. The natural elements support the basic needs of life; yet, as recent events demonstrate, they might suddenly act against these needs in the form of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and storms. While some of these disasters are clear evidence of climate change, the human footprint left on the earth remains contested on the political stage – the voice of ecological movements stifled by debates. This silencing calls for new ways of mediating the elements in the public sphere. While concepts for this endeavor have been offered by recent scholarship, such as Bruno Latour’s description of “a new climatic regime” (Facing Gaia, 2017), the call for the atunement to the elements is also a part of the German philosophical and literary tradition, e.g. from Friedrich Nietzsche to Martin Heidegger, as well as from medieval mysticism to Romanticism and beyond.
In recent years, media studies have been answering this call by investigate the interrelations between media and environment on the material level. Coining the term “geology of media,” Jussi Parikka focuses on the natural resources necessary to develop and sustain technology (“The Anthropobscene”, 2013). In a more metaphorical way, John Durham Peters considers media as “environments […] that anchor our existence and make what we are doing possible.” (The Marvelous Clouds, 2015). While elemental metaphors such as flows, clouds, and firewalls have contributed to our understanding of how media function, they also indicate how media oftentimes dissipate into the background of experience. Emphasizing the materiality of media practices, we attempt to render visible the elemental conditions and qualities of media environments.
Drawing on media theory and on the long history of an aesthetics and politics of the elements, we ask: How does literature contribute to shaping a new awareness of the elemental conditions of life? How do processes of mediation contribute to the political project of renewing the way in which we relate to natural elements? In addition to these questions, submissions could address Stimmung and Atmosphäre as elemental environments (cf. Gernot Böhme, Peter Sloterdijk), the media strategies of environmental movements in Germany, as well as the ways we use elemental metaphors and metonymies in everyday speech. Last but not least, the linguistic representation of natural phenomena differs across cultures and languages, thus opening up a field for comparative approaches.
Please send 300-word proposals to by January 8th, 2018. The abstract should elaborate the argument in relation to the conference topic. UC Berkeley’s Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference is open to graduate students, lecturers, adjuncts, and other non-tenure-track scholars.