CFP: Unexpected Encounters with Deep Time – Enchantment | Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network

Source: CFP: Unexpected Encounters with Deep Time – Enchantment | Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network

Call for Papers: Unexpected Encounters with Deep Time: Enchantment

Thursday, 26th November 2015

Andrew Grant Lecture Theatre, Evolution House, West Port, Edinburgh College of Art

Organised by the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network

 Earlier this year the discovery of homo naledi propelled enchantment into a framework of deep time. The speculation is that early human ancestors, perhaps from as much as 4 million years ago, may have ritually buried their dead in the dark Rising Star caves. The questions of when, where and for whom the world first appeared as enchanted have abruptly shifted from the 200,000 or so years of homo sapiens into a much longer past. Elsewhere, the deep future of enchantment can be gleaned from discussions around the future of nuclear waste. Will future descendants still be enchanted by this ‘new immortal’? If so how do present humans protect them from their own curiosity when conventions of communication are so closely embedded within shallow time? Looking closely at the implications of these questions reveal cracks in the shell of human exceptionalism. After all the questions around nuclear waste are often accompanied by the caveat that these descendants we seek to protect may no longer be human.  Yet enchantment is a concept tied to the core of the humanities. Stories of the loss of disenchantment remain central to definitions of modernity and the rise of secularism, and enchantment’s return, via claims of the rise of religious fundamentalism, is central to contemporary geopolitics. Within environmental literatures enchantment has been seen as a way of mobilising ethical responses on an increasingly damaged planet (e.g. Abram; Bennet) and critiqued for contributing to the forgetting of countless ‘unloved others’ (Rose & van Dooren).

Our series focus on ‘unexpected encounters with deep time’ emphasises the way that deep time is encountered in materiality of the everyday. Likewise Jane Bennet has stressed that enchantment arises, unanticipated, in the moment, in the “active engagement with objects of sensuous experience” (5).

The aim of this workshop is to explore what enchantment might become within a framework of deep time. We hope to explore questions such as:

  • How might deep time and enchantment reframe or challenge each other?
  • How are their ties to the everyday world to be understood?
  • How might deep time trouble the humanist frame within which enchantment has primarily been situated?
  • How might it disturb current understandings of the promises and perils of enchantment for environmental thought and action?
  • What are the political and ethical implications, positive or negative, of ‘enchanting’ deep time?
  • How might deep time queer the temporalities of enchantment (cf Burlein & Orr)?

Papers of around 15-20 minutes addressing these and related questions are very welcome. Please submit your proposal by the 19th of October using our online form. Responses will be provided by the 26th of October. Proposals for alternative presentations/formats are welcomed. Please contact the organisers to discuss.


Michelle Bastian ( and David Farrier (

Writing Place in the Environmental Humanities: Five Ideas – EEHN

As part of our series on key practices in the environmental humanities, around twenty members and guests of the Edinburgh EH Network spent an afternoon discussing approaches to writing. We listened to readings by Hayden Lorimer, Maria Fusco, and Fraser MacDonald. Subsequent discussions focused on the ethics, techniques, constraints and demands of writing place. Here are five points distilled from these conversations and our speakers’ reflections:

  • Place can be like a broken tooth – it can demand response, and draw the writer in. Bearing witness or giving voice or to the animals, memories, or geotic powers that animate place is a popular goal for place-writers. Good place writers are aware of the risks of misrecognition – of getting writing wrong – that inevitably come with attempts to represent these powers. Writers persevere nonetheless, and can play with the risks of getting things wrong in their writing. Good writers will also beware the implicit dominances of writing about place. Writing for the world assumes a hierarchy that may not be present in writing with or of the world.
  • The place-writer attends with care to their own presence in the text. Our group preferred writers who avoided hubris and steered clear of self-aggrandisement. While one can write in the first person, one should not write ‘about me’: place should be written through the author, rather than being about the author.
  • The writer thinks about how their voice will travel. Writing words to be read is not the same as writing words to be heard – attend the difference, push at the edges of legibility with wild experimentation. Think about the rootedness of accent, approach, vocabulary; how can the writing make the specificities of lived place travel? Recently, writers have expanded the traditional tonal range of place-writing with melancholia, domestic rapture, nostalgia, and more. We might widen the list to include sentimentality, speculation, sarcasm, comedy – depending on the place itself.
  • Straining for novelty can be a drag. We felt that genre and convention are not always restrictions to be overcome: they can be enabling, as well as constraining. Hybrid writing that combines, say, an academic with a lyrical place essay, is not always desirable. The most powerful writing can often be stylistically or formally conservative (just think of a seminal journal article in your field). Hygiene can be helpful!
  • There can be something indecent in extracting academic transcendence from a story (that moment when we go “academic” or “analytic” and away from the place). The need to meet the expectations of academics trained to read and react in certain can be restrictive. Several writers spoke of the “sinuous essay”; an essay that weaves large and small, near and far, insight and detail. The sinuous replaces the swooping, when the writer zooms giddy fast from empirics to theory and back. Moving across registers demands significant care and skill.

Of course, our conversations ranged much more widely than this short summary can convey.

read more Writing Place in the Environmental Humanities: Five Ideas – Edinburgh Environmental Humanities NetworkEdinburgh Environmental Humanities Network.

Planetary Gardening @ Goldsmiths


This Thursday, 5th March, I’m presenting some new ideas on gardening for the Anthropocene. The talk will be part of the ‘Critical Environments’ lecture series convened by Lynn Turner & Wood Roberdeau at Goldsmiths Department of Visual Cultures. More details can be found at the Visual Cultures website. Here’s the abstract:

This talk deals with four lures proffered by the Anthropocene. The first three: hyper-modernisation, or the colonisation of deep time by the anthropos; apocalypse therapy, or melancholic revelry in the end times; the significance sky hook, or “cfp: X in the Anthropocene”. These three are lures to be avoided. I then note a latent underspecified tendency shared by many – from progressive policy folk to biophilosophers – to invoke gardening as metaphor for planetary ethics. Drawing on my research into real and imaginary gardens, I outline something of what such an ethic might partake: anticipating life with vegetal philosophy; domesticating decomposition and death; flourishing awkwardly while fighting wars against the enemy. These take us to a final, more attractive lure. Beginning from nomadic points of difference, we might glimpse beyond the Anthropocene the utopian lure of new collectives and new kinds of humans, composed for more sanity and for feeling more deeply the earth and all its knotty difficulties.

Writing the Environmental Humanities – workshop

On Wednesday 25th February the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network will host the second in our series of workshops on key areas of academic practice within the Environmental Humanities.

Writing the environmental humanities

Wednesday 25 February 2015, 50 George Square, Room 1.06, Edinburgh, 14:00-17:00, followed by wine

In conversation:

  • Hayden Lorimer, Geographical and Earth Sciences, Glasgow
  • Maria Fusco, Edinburgh College of Art
  • Fraser MacDonald, Institute of Geography, Edinburgh

Discussion topics: The ethics of story / Writing nature well / Writing across disciplines / Can words change worlds?

This half-day workshop, the second in a series organised by the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network, will reflect on scholarly writing and its role in responding to ecological crisis. Short readings from our three guests will be followed by extended group discussions addressing topics including the ethics of story, craft, audience, transformation.

To book a place email

via Writing the Environmental Humanities – Edinburgh Environmental Humanities NetworkEdinburgh Environmental Humanities Network.

The Onomatophore of the Anthropocene by Bronislaw Szerszynski; Thurs., 27 Nov at 6pm

Caring for the Future Through Ancestral Time | The Onomatophore of the Anthropocene by Bronislaw Szerszynski; Thurs., 27 Nov at 6pm.

You are cordially invited to a special evening performance and dialogue with Bronislaw Szerszynski (Department of Sociology, Lancaster University) this Thursday, Nov 27 at 6pm in the Martin Hall, “The Onomatophore of the Anthropocene: Commission on Planetary Ages Decision CC87966424/49″:
“Earth scientists have proposed that the Earth may be entering a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, in which the human species is the main geological force. In this performance for voice and animated graphics we will hear the declaration of an official decision from an imagined body which has the legal power to determine the names of the ages of all planetary bodies or ‘worlds’ across the galaxy. The decision considers the claim from Homo sapiens that the new geological age of the Earth should be named after their species.  It places this claim in the context of what is known about the evolution of worlds and what it means to be decreed the onomatophore or ‘name-bearer’ of a planetary age, and concludes with a dramatic rewriting of the future evolution of the Earth.”

Seating is limited, so we recommend that you obtain a free ticket through event brite at this link.

Teaching in the Environmental Humanities – workshop

Teaching in the Environmental Humanities – workshop

On Tuesday 16th December the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network will host the first in a series of workshops on key areas of academic practice within the Environmental Humanities.

Teaching in the Environmental Humanities

16th December 2014, 12.30-5.00pm
50 George Square, University of Edinburgh


  • Richard Kerridge (School of Humanities and Cultural Industries, Bath Spa University). Author of Cold Blood (2014); Writing the Environment (1998)
  • Francoise Wemelsfelder (Animal and Veterinary Sciences Group, Scotland’s Rural College)
  • Peter Higgins (Outdoor & Environmental Education, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh)

As the sense of ecological crisis builds, a new field of interdisciplinary enquiry has developed in the form of the Environmental Humanities. This half-day workshop, the first in a series organised by the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network, will address the issues faced by teachers in this new field, including the competing demands of diverse bodies of knowledge, both theoretical and practical, and the ethical contradiction between the need for urgent action and the need for spaces of reflection. In doing so it will bring together academic teachers and practitioners from literary studies, animal studies, and outdoor education, to reflect on what constitutes effective and innovative teaching in the Environmental Humanities.

The workshop will feature a keynote from Richard Kerridge, followed by responses from our two other speakers, all of which will form the basis for group discussion. The workshop is free to attend (lunch included) but spaces are limited: anyone wishing to attend should book a place via event brite.

Future workshops in 2015 will look at other areas of key academic practice in the environmental humanities:

  • Writing in the Environmental Humanities
  • Creating in the Environmental Humanities
  • Collaborating in the Environmental Humanities

For more information, keep an eye on the EEHN webpage. To join the network mailing list, please email

Feeling the Anthropocene: Air, Rock, Flesh

An event I’m organising in the Autumn with the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network

Symposium: University of Edinburgh

11:00-17:00 Friday 28 November 2014

Not only has the Earth become sensitive to the activities of humans, or least certain strata of humanity, but increasingly, ways of life­—human and more-than-human alike—under late capitalism have become increasingly sensitive to Earth forces.

How do we sense the Anthropocene Earth? What does it mean that the Earth feels us? What might a politics that feels the Earth look like? The symposium will examine such questions—and others—through three elements that tie life together: air, rock, and flesh.

via Feeling the Anthropocene: Air, Rock, Flesh.

Ecologies beyond capitalism and IBG 2013

A retrospective open access special edition of Antipode on Ecologies In, Against and Beyond Capitalism has been posted to accompany Bruce Braun’s lecture on “Vital Materialism and Neoliberal Natures” at the RGS/IBG next week. These are great articles, many of them are required reading on my Political Ecology course, but there are a few new ones I haven’t come across before in there too.

While I don’t agree with the assumption in Braun’s abstract that political ecology and the literature on neoliberal natures have largely ignored the more theoretically-inflected vital materialist turn and vice versa (there are plenty of attempts to reconcile them out there), I’m eager to hear what he has to say.

At the RGS/IBG I’m also looking forward to the ever-provocative Kathryn Yusoff and Nigel Clark’s sessions on Capitalism and the Earth. Aside from Immunitary Geographies there isn’t much nature/animals in evidence. I’m in the third of three sessions on Domestic Temporalities, convened by folk from Queen Mary. As ever most time will be spent mooching on the lawn and drinking wine.

AAG reflection

A week has now passed since the Association of American Geographers 2013 Conference in Los Angeles, so I thought I’d briefly reflect on it. For me the star of the conference was the Bonaventure Hotel. This iconic piece of postmodern architecture has so much personality; the look of the week was people turning their heads in a bemused way, “Where am I going?” Being constantly lost. Having sessions in hotel suites. Then there were the little external lift/pods, which zoomed up and down all day (I was in one late at night and gibbered something incomprehensibly fan-like to David Harvey, who stepped in just after me), and those gondolas, immortalilzed by Ed Soja’s BBC video, where nobody sat.


I attended a lot of animal geography, more by accident than plan. A panel session seemed to conclude that animal geographies was on one hand still a small niche, not really respected, while on the other that animals are now studied across the discipline. Henry Buller seemed to suggest, a bit cheekily I assume, that in 10 years’ time if animal geography didn’t exist, but suffused the discipline, this would be an achievement. Jamie Lorimer had some interesting things to say, as ever, on more-than-human methods that could get ‘us’ closer to the lifeworlds of animals. Henry and Mara Miele’s session on spaces of imagination and encounter was also great – a highlight was Islay Forsyth’s paper on Voytek the polish bear, and I’m still processing David Lulka’s 4D animal idea… This made me want to finish my own piece on Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas. Liz Hennessy’s sessions on science and species production was really well put together, with barely a dud paper all day.

I only dipped into sessions on the Anthropocene, unfortunately it clashed with the session I presented in. I’m still not sure we should be embracing the term so readily. I’m also more convinced than ever the mourning and melancholia are not productive reactions or likely to lead to useful geo-politics; Arun Saldanha’s piece on geo-communism was a welcome provocation. My own early-work-in-progress piece on animals and apocalypse appeared in Tim Edensor and Steve Millington’s great sessions on geographies of darkness and light, although my paper felt a bit tangental there.

LA itself was pretty dreadful, though views of the vast sprawl from the rotating bar at on the 37th floor of the Bonaventure were undeniably awesome. A post-conference road trip took in Californian landscapes of sea, mountain and desert: an amazing, infuriating place.

Wilderness parking in Yosemite: in the US, you can’t have the wild without the automobile…