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In the wake of ecological disaster: navigating pasts and generating futures 
Irene van Oorschot (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Annelies Kuijpers (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Sophie van Balen (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
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Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

Ours is an age of ecological disaster, including sudden extreme events as well as 'slow' processes of ecological degradation. Drawing on polychronic and topological approaches to time and temporality, this panel examines how different pasts and futures are enacted in the wake of such disasters.

Long Abstract:

In the Wake of Ecological Disaster: Navigating Pasts and Generating Futures

Ours is an age of ecological disaster. These disasters range from sudden extreme events such as forest fires, floods, or storms that disrupt life as usual, to more pernicious forms of slow violence such as ecological degradation and pollution. These disasters represent moments in which the past must be rethought and reckoned with, and potentially generative encounters within which alternative futures may be envisioned and enacted.

Drawing on Sharpe's concept of the wake (2016) this panel aims to attend to the way various publics – from environmental and governmental authorities, scientific experts, to engaged publics more broadly – engage with pasts and futures in response to sudden or slow ecological disaster. Being in the wake means that certain pasts, particularly pasts of domination, dispossession, and extraction, are not simply left behind (Sharpe 2016), and that the work we do in envisioning futures irrevocably takes place in the presence and present of these pasts.

Thinking about ecological disasters as inviting complex reworkings of temporality, this panel contributes to contemporary STS in teasing out the multiple and entangled (ecological, social, political) pasts and futures at play in (post-)disaster response practices and public formation around forms of slow ecological degradation. Drawing on polychronic and topological approaches to time (Bensaude-Vincent 2021) this panel furthermore complicates singular and progressive temporalities characteristic of transitions thinking, and engages with the material obduracy of the past in the present.

The organizers invite contributions that empirically engage with ecological disasters that probe the following questions: what human, as well as more-than-human temporalities are enacted in practices, imaginaries, and knowledges that respond to and proliferate in the wake/presence of ecological disasters? How do these confront and enact different pasts? And what are the implicit politics of such responses?

Accepted papers: