2nd Call for Participation: Workshop on Critical Climate Change Scholarship

University of Minnesota, April 5-7 2013

Critical climate change scholarship has demonstrated how the prospect of non-linear, catastrophic change in the conditions of human life demands new modes of critical engagement, and new forms of alignment between social and cultural theory, the earth and life sciences, and political practice (Cohen and Colebrook 2012; Szerszynski and Urry 2010)[1]. This work includes analyses of the political economy of the carbon trade (Bumpus and Liverman 2008; Thorne and Randalls 2007)[2]; the political implications of uncertainty and catastrophe in imagining climate futures (Clark 2010; Gabrys and Yusoff 2011; Hulme and Dessai 2008; Swyngedouw 2010; Zizek 2010); and the intersection of economic and ecological crisis in contemporary forms of power (Cooper 2010; Dibley and Neilson 2010; Massumi 2009). This workshop aims to contribute to these efforts and provoke new inquiries by posing the question: what is critical about critical climate change scholarship? Employing the dual implications of this phrase, we ask both how climate change demands a rethinking of the nature of critique, and how critical scholarship is more necessary than ever for efforts toward just and sustainable ecological futures.

We begin from the position that the problems posed by climate change demand a politically-engaged critical practice that transcends disciplinary boundaries, informed by a sophisticated understanding of biospheric processes and the shifting relations among social and ecological systems. While the groundwork for such a pursuit has arguably been laid by the diversity of scholarship outlined above, this work has so far been largely confined to the traditionally ‘critical’ areas of the social sciences and humanities, with limited interaction with the physical and life sciences. This workshop aims to facilitate transdisciplinary critical climate change scholarship by providing an opportunity to: develop a robust critical vocabulary able to speak across disciplines; identify common goals and strategize future projects for critical climate change scholarship; and locate resources, both financial and intellectual, for pursuing these agendas.

With these goals in mind, we invite presentations, papers for pre-circulation among participants, and presentations in other forms (such as films, mini-workshops, etc) that fit broadly one or more central themes, or address related topics of critical interest:

1.     Climate futures:

  • The science and politics of anticipation, uncertainty and abrupt climate change
  • Resilience and adaptation: current trajectories, critical perspectives, and alternative possibilities

2.     Carbon economies:

  • Critical geographies of carbon and carbon trading
  • The role of financial capital in climate change mitigation and adaptation

3.     Climate politics:

  • Climate governance and the administration of life
  • Articulations between climate scholarship and activism

Further, a cross-cutting theme of the event will be a focus on consolidating and interrogating the field of critical climate change scholarship, and identifying resources, strategies, and avenues for future critical work. Therefore, we strongly encourage submissions that reflect upon and interrogate the role of critique in the face of climate change.

We hope this workshop will provide a dynamic and participatory context for the generation of new collaborative endeavors. In particular, we hope to highlight the work of graduate students and early-career scholars, as well as to provide an opportunity for scholars experienced in interdisciplinary research to reflect on and share their strategies for successful collaboration. Workshop activities will be aimed at developing an on-going conversation throughout the course of each day around topics of interdisciplinary concern, addressing how critical scholarship within each of these broad areas can benefit from stronger interdisciplinary collaboration. The workshop will conclude with a session focused on identifying trajectories and resources for collaborative research and action.

The workshop will be hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, April 5-7 2013. If you are interested in presenting a paper, are willing to circulate a paper to workshop participants as part of a panel discussion, or would like to propose an alternative presentation or activity, please submit a brief (under 250 words) abstract and biographical statement. Please also note any required supplies or technologies. Papers for pre-circulation among workshop participants will be requested two weeks prior to the date of the workshop. All submissions should be sent to Jessi Lehman and SaraNelson at by January 1 2013. We will offer a small travel reimbursement to participants to help offset travel costs.

[1] See also the special issue of Theory, Culture and Society, ‘Changing Climates.’

[2] See also the special issues of Antipode 43(3) and Ephemera 12(1/2) on ‘The New Carbon Economy’ and ‘The Atmosphere Business,’ respectively.