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Conference report (Aarhus) – Working Group 5 “Transformation of the Environment”

Conference report (Aarhus) – Working Group 5 “Transformation of the Environment”

The “Transformation of the Environment” working group (WG5) met three times in the course of the Aarhus conference, twice to reflect on input received during plenary “Key Insights” sessions and to relate it to members’ own research on slow environmental memory, once to discuss educational materials and a special issue proposal.

Hamid Foroughi and Ayse Erek led the WG5 discussion following anthropologist Frida Hastrop’s lecture on her “Cattle Crossroads” project, which investigates the Danish agricultural sector’s animal “production” and the slow structures and enduring assumptions that make it hard for this sector to change and react to the imminent climate crisis. We discussed different types of embodied remembering as ways of connecting environmental and human transformation, fast and slow metabolisms of people and places (the food-water-energy nexus), and the concepts of time (delaying tactics), scale (slowing down policymaking by remembering small breakthroughs), and grey zones (in the sense of implication—grey moral zones—as well as literal edgelands).

Berfu Goren led the WG5 discussion following presentations by historians Astrid Nonbo Andersen (on truth and reconciliation in the Nordic countries) and Mikkel Thelle (on how the body and environment of the “welfare-citizen” has been shaped in the long twentieth century). Topics that came up during the discussion include the materiality of representations of environmental change, different disciplinary temporalities, the nexus of ecological grief and guilt, the (non)sense of apologizing for environmental harm, and resistance to efforts to memorialize the victims of climate change (both human and non-human). Joanne Garde-Hansen synthesized the discussions in the first two WG5 sessions and reported on them to the entire group afterwards.

In the third WG5 session, Rick Crownshaw, Stef Craps, and Jenny Wüstenberg presented several public outreach projects, at various stages of development, in which they are currently involved: collaborations with museums and memorials on how to engage the public with climate change, the Anthropocene, ecological mourning, or the extinction crisis. These short presentations, provided by way of inspiration, were followed by a brainstorm on (other) educational materials WG5 could produce. Simon Probst offered to take the lead on one set of educational materials (on literature and deep time); Joanne Garde-Hansen and Hamid Foroughi tentatively agreed to collaborate on another set. During the 2023-2024 academic year both projects will be further developed in online WG5 meetings. We went on to discuss the draft call for papers for a special issue on “Climate Witnessing,” co-edited by Stef Craps, Rick Crownshaw, and Rebecca Dolgoy, to be published in Memory Studies Review in 2025. The final CFP will be circulated towards the end of 2023.

//Stef Craps

Hayden, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Hayden, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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