Young Researchers Conference 2020
Young Researchers Online Conference of the DFG Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies "Futures of Sustainability" on 5 and 6 November 2020
Dealing with the (Un)Known Unknowns: Practice Theoretical Perspectives on Social-Ecological Crises
Due to the manifold socio-ecological crises such as climate change, extinction of species or forced migration, established notions of a linear and plannable future are being shaken. The exploitative relationship of humans towards nature and its resources is also increasingly being questioned. In various social spheres, there is a consensus that "business as usual" cannot continue any longer and that the practices of imperial lifestyle, i.e. the habitual patterns of production, consumption and distribution, must be reviewed and changed, including their structural conditions, which are often presented as being without alternatives and are accompanied by far-reaching social and ecological consequences.
Not only is the material anchoring of social practices increasingly coming into focus, for example in the form of alternative natural conditions, but also their potentially unstable character. This is reflected in collective feelings of insecurity and simultaneously opens up competing horizons of meaning for utopian and dystopian imaginations of the future. In addition, the notions of temporality embedded in social practices are increasingly coming to the fore, e.g. in the form of a decelerated handling of time, which is also expressed in individual political demands. At present, there are contested patterns of interpretation of the “not-yet”, which, against the background of the current crisis dynamics, are characterized by a high degree of both known and unknown uncertainties, and the question arises as to how these "(Un)Known Unknowns" can be dealt with in a socially scientific manner.
With regard to the debate on sustainability, which serves as a widely accepted response to the many and varied socio-ecological crises, a distinction can be made between three imaginations of the future embedded in concrete practices and their material arrangements: i) A largely established and linear concept of modernisation and progress, e.g. in the form of "green capitalism", (ii) transformative approaches and demands, often based on alternative natural and temporal conditions, for example in the context of the post-growth movement or indigenous cosmovisions, and (iii) the mastering and control of future uncertainties by means of technical-rational procedures or authoritarian measures, e.g. through forms of geo-engineering or compartmentalized policies.
We take these potentially conflictual negotiations about the “not-yet” as the starting point for our conference "Dealing with the Un(Known) Unknowns" and explore them from three relevant dimensions: materiality, instability and temporality. Materiality refers to artifactual and natural things whose meaningful use is constitutive of practices. Inspired by Actor-Network-Theory and New Materialisms, the question of the relationship between nature and culture and between man and artifact arises again and again. The concept of materiality itself should also be problematized. Does it possibly reproduce the dichotomy between the material and the ideal sphere? Is there a difference between animate and inanimate nature? Can this be grasped in terms of practice theory? Instability emphasizes the creative moment of (un)intended deviations from certain scripts of action and the associated potential for transforming social practices. Against the background of possible social change, the question of the extent to which instability and change should be understood as a normal state of society instead of stability and continuity is of particular importance. Finally, temporality refers not only to the temporal order of social fields and the resulting implicit experience of time, but also to the explicit organization of temporality in the execution of practices. Here the question arises, on the one hand, to what extent the confrontation with an uncertain future characterized by contingency produces different temporalities and, on the other hand, how these are embedded in social orders and practices. The handling of non-human temporalities is also of interest here, for example in the form of processes and dynamics of the earth system that can in part interact disruptively with social temporal relations.
With regard to these three dimensions, the broad field of practice theories provides fruitful points of contact, both on a theoretical and empirical level, for a social scientific perspective that is dedicated to the social handling of the "(Un)Known Unknowns" in the context of sustainability and the associated uncertainties and disruptions. In a combination of theoretical inputs, empirical research contributions and interactive workshop formats, we want to discuss what contribution practice theoretical research can make to an examination of the many imagined futures of social-ecological crises.
Thursday, November 5, 2020:
- 14.30: Welcome and introduction
- 15.15-17.30: Workshop on materiality with Prof. Dr. Katharina Manderscheid
- 18-19: Online evening keynote from Dr. Allison Hui with discussion
Friday, November 6, 2020:
- 9-10 am: Morning Keynote from Prof. Dr. Matthew Hannah with discussion
- 10.15-12.30: Workshop on instability with Prof. Dr. Florian Dünckmann
- 12.30-13.30: Lunch break
- 13.30-15.45: Workshop on temporality with Prof. Dr. Hannes Krämer
- 16-16.30: Final round
The conference will take place digitally and will be held in German, with the exception of the lecture by Dr. Allison Hui.
If you are interested in participating, please register until 31.10.2020 at Tanja Mühle (zukuenfte.der.nachhaltigkeit"AT"uni-hamburg.de).
Further information and access data will be sent to you by e-mail in due time.