Ecologizing Urban Ontologies in the Anthropocene

MCTS-Forum Workshop Report (17 November, 2018, Munich)

By Nika Pitkänen

In November 2018, the Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS) of the TUM, the Rachel Carson Center (RCC) of the LMU, and Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen (HFF) hosted an interdisciplinary Workshop titled Ecologizing Urban Ontologies in the Anthropocene. On the evening of 16 November 2018, Karin Jurschick (HFF) hosted a screening of the film Natura Urbana, directed by urban geographer Matthew Gandy (Cambridge University). The following transdisciplinary discussion with students and fellows of all participating institutions formed the base for the Workshop the following day.

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Picking Hops in Nineteenth-Century Wisconsin

The Taproom is a monthly series that explores the rich history of all things beer. It is curated by Pavla Šimková.

*Feature image: Group of men, women, and children gathered in a hop field, possibly that of Paul Saavles. Image ID 26259, 1874, by Andreas Larsen Dahl. Newark, Rock County, Wisconsin. Used with the kind permission of Wisconsin Historical Society, https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Image/IM26259.

By Jennifer Jordan

From 1873 to 1879, in Dellona, Wisconsin, Ella Seymour kept a sporadic record of her life. Her careful handwriting curled across the blue and red lines of the little ledger she used as a diary. She recounted the weather, illness, chores, and visits like so many of her fellow diarists of the nineteenth century. She reports: “We arranged beds, cleaned windows, and Ida mopped some. Ma and I took care of Arthur [presumably a little brother] by turns in the night.” On 31 August, she washed, ironed, and churned. On 1 September, she ironed and baked. And on 3 September, she picked 1 ½ boxes of hops.

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Photo by author. Ella Seymour’s diary, Seymour Family files, Wisconsin Historical Society Archive, M93-113, Box 1.

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Making Tracks: Politicizing Water Inequalities

By Marcela López

Since I was a child, I have had the opportunity to travel around Colombia with my family and friends, and to explore a wide variety of ecosystems ranging from tropical rainforests to deserts, savannas, and páramos. By traveling through these remote landscapes, I became fascinated not only by nature’s “pristine” character, but also by the large-scale infrastructure projects that were crossing, dissecting and (dis)connecting these landscapes. Dams, highways, water reservoirs, canals, and power lines captured my attention both for their scale, and for the capacity of humans to control and dominate nature. Read More

Book Review: Quest for the Unity of Knowledge, by David Lowenthal

by Eugenio Luciano

“Two modes of understanding dominate the history of ideas. One posits the overarching unity of knowledge, the other cherishes its multifarious diversity. Unity is the goal of those who seek a single all-encompassing explanation of everything. Diversity is lauded by those who commend difference and variety as life-enhancing” (p. 1).

This is the underlying idea through which David Lowenthal explores major themes of pressing social and environmental relevance in Western thinking in his Quest for the Unity of the Knowledge, his last work published before his death in 2018. Is unifying knowledge achievable? Is it desirable? Answering these questions had been the central theme in the divide between the “Two Cultures,” namely the natural sciences and humanities. The natural sciences model the world through the language of mathematics, of “objectiveness” and logical coherence, seeking an ultimate answer or “theory of everything” that could explain worldly phenomena. The humanities, in contrast, emphasize the role of subjective experience, promoting multi-layered explanations of reality, and criticizing what many see as a disenchantment and soullessness that science has brought upon the natural world. Read More

City Environments around the Globe: Past Challenges, Future Visions

Workshop Report (15–16 December 2018, New York University, NY)

The new collaboration between Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU Munich) and New York University (NYU) focuses on understanding urban environments over time, and aims to explore urban issues and challenges via a comparative, transnational, and global framework.

ParticipantsChristof Mausch and Talitta Reitz, Rachel Carson Center/Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich; Sophia Kolantzakos, NYU-Abu Dhabi; and Mary Killilea and Anne Rademacher, NYU-New York.


By Mary Killilea

The day started with an introduction by Anne Rademacher (see her PowerPoint presentation below) on the Killilea–Rademacher collaboration, the NYU Urban Greening Lab. After the presentation, we discussed the potential outcomes of the City Environments around the Globe collaboration.

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Impressions from Kvarken and Vaasa

Nestled between Vaasa in Finland and Umeå in Sweden is a mysterious moving landscape. The geology of the Kvarken Archipelago National Park makes it a dynamic and transient place, yet the recognizable Scandinavian climate and ecology lends it a timeless quality. In 2006 it became Finland’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site due to these unique environments, its slowly transforming landscapes, and the local traditions of its inhabitants.

From 16–21 September 2018, it also hosted a unique group of international scholars during the first ever training event of the Marie Sklodowska Curie (MSCA) Innovative Training Network program, RECOMS: Resourceful and Resilient Communities. The program’s 15 fellows and their mentors, as well as partners from the network, met to discuss future activities of the program, specific topics such as photography, resilience and resourcefulness, identity, and intersectionality, and key skills like leadership, management, and team building.

Among the participants were two RCC early-stage researchers and the institute’s director Christof Mauch. Here, in an excerpt from his diary from the field trip, Christof shares with us some interesting facts and unique impressions of Vaasa and the Kvarken National Park.

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Snapshot: Ecocritics Welcome Here!

On 15 February, the RCC played host to a poster exhibition on ecocriticism. Master’s-level students working with Dr Felicitas Meifert-Menhard from LMU Munich’s English department had spent a semester learning about the wide reach and application of reading literary texts ecologically—not just contemporary texts concerned with anthropogenic climate change, but also much older texts that can help us complicate our ideas about what nature is, or comprehend the complexity of the human relationship with the natural world. Read More

Placing Gender: Gender and Environmental History

Workshop report (10–12 December 2018, La Trobe University, Melbourne Australia). Sponsored by the Rachel Carson Center, Munich; La Trobe University’s Centre for the Study of the Inland; and Monash University.
(*Feature image: MPavilion by Rob Deutscher, 2018, CC BY 2.0, via flickr. MPavilion in Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne, is an ongoing series of architecture commissions initiated in 2014.)

By Katie Holmes (La Trobe University, Australia) and Ruth Morgan (Monash University, Australia)

Despite Carolyn Merchant’s provocative 1990 article on gender and environment in the Journal of American History, this multifaceted discipline remains an under-developed area of inquiry. For example, the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) conference in July 2017 hosted just one panel on gender and environmental history, while presentations in the area at the 2017 American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) were similarly sparse. More recently, discussions on social media confirmed that few environmental historians have considered the implications of a gendered analysis for understanding environmental change.

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Anthropocene and Citizen Science

Workshop Report: Anthropocene and Citizen Science: Evidence Gained through the “Opening-up” of Academic Knowledge Production? (19–20 July 2018, Munich)

By Fabienne Will

*Photos courtesy of author

In July 2018, the Deutsches Museum hosted a workshop organized by the two projects Evidence Practices at the Interstice of Sciences, Humanities and the Public: The Anthropocene Debate and Evidence in Citizen Science: Between Non-Certified Expertise, Professional Supervision, and Mechanization, which together form a tandem called Entanglement—Science Communities. Both projects are part of the DFG Research Group 2448, Evidence Practices in Science, Medicine, Technology, and Society. The theme of the workshop was Anthropocene and Citizen Science: Evidence Gained through the “Opening-Up” of Academic Knowledge Production? About 40 scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds—ranging from history to philosophy, politics, sociology, ethics, and art to name only a few—participated in the workshop. Journalist and filmmaker Steve Bradshaw, as well as a poet Daniel Falb were among the participants. Read More

The RCC Goes Bavarian!

With its wealth of alpine environments and cultural traditions, Bavaria calls to diverse audiences that are as rich as its own natural heritage. Through a host of new projects rooted in sharing and comparing Munich, Bavaria, and the Alpine region, the RCC is celebrating the home of its German headquarters as well as strengthening its bonds with a consortium of partners from all over the world.  Read More