Environment-Worlds

MODULE ONE  22-23 February 2017

KTH School of Architecture

 

Environment-world is a concept that draws attention to how, amidst environments, worlds of sense are carved out by specific subjectivities and social collectives based on their delimited capacity for world making projects. It is a complex and specific site composed of material and immaterial things and relations. Environment-world is my own hyphenated rendering of the German term Umwelt, which would usually be translated as, quite simply, ‘environment’. Drawing on the idiosyncratic work of the semiotic biologist Jacob von Uexküll, I read the German word literally and suggest that ‘Umwelt’ shelters two parts – um and die Welt – the first meaning ‘surroundings’, or that which surrounds, and the second meaning ‘world’. A world tends to associate itself with how we make sense of things, or how we construct meaning through material and conceptual means. Reading Uexküll and his commentators, what emerges is a contrapuntal, reciprocal (if uneven) relation between living creature and the environmental surroundings out of which the creature carves its niche as a matter of survival. Here, furthermore, is what can be described as a site for the circulation of affect, the relationship between being affected and making an affect in relation to an environment-world milieu. Affect here pertains both to how a sentient body is sensorially aroused in relation to its surroundings, as well as the capacity of that body to act and react and thereby transform its surroundings. For different creatures different things stand out as significant in relation to their site-specific embedded positions or fields of action, while other things recede from significance, or remain in the background. Uexküll’s work on Umwelten has had an influence on thinkers such as: Elizabeth Grosz, Gilles Deleuze, Giorgio Agamben, Peter Sloterdijk, amongst others.

This first module will address the different ways we can acknowledge mixed natural-cultural environmental concerns in relation to our research questions. In addressing hybrid natures-cultures, as Donna Haraway and Bruno Latour would describe our multifarious environment-worlds, we can also set up our projects in relation to the over-arching concerns that emerge with the Anthropocene thesis, which has been gaining increasing discursive traction across the environmental and architectural humanities.

Key Concepts

Anthropocene thesis; natures-cultures; environment-world; Umwelten; environmental humanities; architectural humanities; environmentality; affect.

I assume that to this list of key concepts participants will add their own concept-tools.

TASK: Colouring-In Exercise

In preparation for Module One please prepare a presentation of your research field by drawing an outline around your problem/s. For some of you this will mean making an account of a specific, concrete site of action, for others your sites of action will be more abstract. Here the idea is to attempt to depict the ‘environment-world’ with which you are struggling to make your research project come to fruition. Every research student is obliged to circumscribe their field of action in order to then argue about what contribution they are making to the field. In many ways this task relates to a generic obligation, which I here ask you to critically interrogate.

 

  1. By proposing an image and text account of your ‘environment-world’ as it relates to your research, you also have the opportunity to present your research project to your peers. I encourage you to explore modes of expression (image, text, essay, poem, diagram, moving image, other) that best expresses the ethos of your work. The format should be one that can be presented as a pdf, or similar electronic document that can be projected during our first meeting. Upload to Blog under category: https://philosophiesresarc.net/category/responses-module-01/

 

  1. Bring along your current thesis title, abstract, and a contents page. In many instances, this will mean pre-emptively, and imaginatively constructing a contents page based on research yet to be undertaken. For inspiration concerning how contents pages are curated or edited, see readings listed under the ‘pre-course assignment’: https://philosophiesresarc.net/01-relationality/ Upload to Blog in association with a brief bio under: https://philosophiesresarc.net/category/who-are-we/

 

Guest Lecturer: Karin Reisinger, TU Wien 

Karin Reisinger teaches at the Vienna University of Technology (Institute of Art and Design), and Feminist Ecologies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (Institute of Art and Architecture) after she was postdoctoral fellow in Critical Studies in Architecture at the KTH School of Architecture, Stockholm 2016-17. Karin was key organizer of the conference Architecture and Feminisms: Ecologies, Economies, Technologies (2016). Educated in Architecture and Cultural Studies, she pursued her PhD Grass without Roots. Towards Nature becoming Spatial Practice, in the Visual Culture Unit, at the Vienna University of Technology. During her postdoctoral fellowship in Sweden, she investigated the archives and memories of mining societies with methods of feminist political ecologies. She also guest-edited Vol 5(3) of Architecture and Culture, ‘Styles of Queer Feminist Practices and Objects in Architecture’, and Vo 7(1) of the field journal, ‘Becoming a Feminist Architect’, together with Meike Schalk in 2017.

Lectures will be held on Thursday evenings from 18.00 and will be open to the KTH School of Architecture and to the public.

READINGS:

Agamben, Giorgio. The Open. Stanford, Cal: Stanford University Press, 2004. Excerpts, 33-38; 39-43.

Barber, Daniel. ‘Architectural History in the Anthropocene.’ Journal of Architecture, vol. 21, no. 8 (2016): 1165–1170.

Davis, Heather and Turpin, Etienne ed. Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies, Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press, Michigan Publishing, 2015. Available for download. You can read this introduction as an alternative to Architecture in the Anthropocenehttp://openhumanitiespress.org/books/download/Davis-Turpin_2015_Art-in-the-Anthropocene.pdf

Grosz, Elizabeth. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. Excerpt.

Haraway, Donna. “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin”, in Environmental Humanities, vol. 6, 2015, pp. 159-165 http://environmentalhumanities.org/arch/vol6/6.7.pdf

Sloterdijk, Peter. “Airquakes” in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 2009, vol. 27, pp. 41-57. (This in an excerpt from Sloterdijk’s Foams: Spheres III. You should be able to access this article from your library’s e-journal resources).

Turpin, Etienne ed. Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Time, and Philosophy, Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press, Michigan Publishing, 2013. Available for download. Please read the introduction: http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/architecture-in-the-anthropocene/

 

Background Readings

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. The Climate of History: Four Theses. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 3, No. 2 Winter 2009, 197-222.

Colebrook, Claire. Death of the PostHuman: Essays on Extinction, vol. 1. Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, University of Michigan Library, 2014. http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/death-of-the-posthuman/

Colebrook, Claire. Sex After Life: Essays on Extinction, vol. 2. Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, University of Michigan Library, 2014. http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/sex-after-life/

Demos, T.J. Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017.

Guattari, Félix. The Three Ecologies. London: The Athlone Press, 2000.

Haraway, Donna. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucence. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016.

Harcourt, Wendy and Nelson, Maggie. Practicing Feminist Political Ecologies: Moving Beyond the ‘Green Economy’. London: Zed Books, 2015.

Harrison, Ariane Lourie, ed. Architectural Theories of the Environment: Posthuman Territory. New York and London: Routledge, 2013.

Heise, Ursula K. ‘Introduction: Planet, Species, Justice – and the stories we tell about them.’ In The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities, edited by Ursula K. Heise and Jon Christensen, Michelle Niemann Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2017, 1-10. (Note: This publication is available as an electronic resource from the KTH Library).

Ingold, Tim. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.

Latour, Bruno. Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2017.

Rawes, Peg, ed. Relational Architectural Ecologies. London and New York: Routledge, 2013.

Sloterdijk, Peter. Foams: Spheres III. South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e), 2016.

Stengers, Isabelle. In Catastrophic Times: The Coming Barbarism. Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press and Meson Press, 2015. Available for download: http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/in-catastrophic-times/

Tsing, Anna, Swanson, Heather, Gan, Elaine and Bubandt, Nils eds. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Uexküll, Jakob von. A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans with a Theory of Meaning. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.