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Research Area 9: Ecology and the Study of Culture


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How do different notions of ecology impact the study of culture, and how do our specific research projects relate to transition and the mitigation of our shared environmental crises? From climate change to distributive environmental justice, from debates over the periodization of the Anthropocene to the invisibility of slow violence, Research Area 9 is an open-format working-group that discusses various concepts, frameworks and methodologies, to inform our respective research by engaging with diverse modes of thinking about the dichotomy between nature and culture, humans and nonhumans, with equal representation of epistemologies and ontologies of the Global South and North.

The RA 'Ecology and the Study of Culture' emerged from the ETRG 'Oikos – Ecology and the Study of Culture,' which explored the intersections of environmental issues as framed by the natural sciences and the study of culture. With a growing awareness of the cultural, political, economic, and social roots of environmental crises, cultural studies have seen a steep increase in sub-disciplines such as Ecocriticism, Environmental History, Eco-Philosophy, or, more broadly, the Environmental Humanities in the last decades. At the same time, (feminist) Science and Technology Studies and, more recently, Human-Animal Studies and New Materialisms can be seen to have led to a "non-human turn" (Grusin 2015) in the humanities and social sciences. The speaking of "turns" suggests, that concepts do not only name new objects of research but also serve as (intercultural) means of knowing and analysis (Bachmann-Medick 2016). 

In the Winter 2021-22 and Summer 2022 semesters, the group has offered a unique space for close-readings of seminal and recently published texts on conceptualizations of “ecological feminism” (Cuomo, 2002), “mothering the earth” (Mcgregor, 2006), “feminist political ecology” (Harcourt & Nelson, 215), “care” (de la Bellacasa, 2017), “cosmopolitics” (Stengers, 2018), “pluriversal politics” (Escobar, 2020), “ecosemiotics” (Maran, 2021), and “Anthropocene” (Hornborg, 2019). Our method of working has been that of elaborating a reader, by using digital platforms that enable the practice of collective annotation. This has allowed us to make public within the group our thinking processes, while collectivizing notetaking and reflecting that we usually experience as private: the very act of reading. In this sense, the RA 'Ecology and the Study of Culture' fosters inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration in order to navigate a space of simultaneous critique and action.

The study of the more-than-human world and its relation to humankind has become almost ubiquitous in both academia and nearly all other areas of knowledge- and cultural production. Understood as a hub for diverse topics, concepts, and approaches, the RA 'Ecology and the Study of Culture' wants to foster inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration in order to navigate the space of simultaneous critique and action. Accordingly, 'Ecology and the Study of Culture' provides the space for research at the GCSC on highly current subjects such as:

  • Socio-cultural practices of pronouncing the relationship between the human and more-than-human world

  • The relationship between ecology and economy in the history of economics
  • Governmentality and subjectivization in cultural representations of an ecologically changed future
  • The interconnectedness of hegemonial systems such as patriarchy, colonialism/racism, capitalism, anthropocentrism, extractivism
  • The reciprocal relation between transmedial representations and their underlying conceptions of more-than-human world and narrative forms of storytelling
  • Science communication and global discourse on climate change, the corona-virus pandemic, and other critical environmental issues as well as their implications, potentials, and sparked controversies regarding underlying concepts 
  • Environmental activism, its potentials, challenges, and boundaries
  • Post-anthropocentric and indigenous perspectives, ontologies, and epistemologies
  • Posthumanist and (Feminist) New Materialist approaches and debates on agency and matter
  • New and emerging currents within and beyond the Environmenta Humanities such as the Blue and Energy Humanities

Projects, Events & Publications

  • On October 25, 2022, RA9, in collaboration with Emerging Topics Group - Interfaces of the Study of Culture and Life sciences, have organized a Keynote Lecture by Prof. Timo Maran, from the Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu. His lecture is titled, "Ecosemiotics of the Anthropocene: How to reground culture in ecosystem?" and was sponsored by the GCSC. This event was followed by a "Masterclass on ecosemiotics: Conceptual toolbox for reconnecting culture and ecosystem” (October 26). 
  • In 2021 RA 9 engaged with New Materialisms and invited Dr. Rick Dolphijn (Associate Professor Utrecht University) to host a Master Class about "New Materialisms: Approaches in Transdisciplinary Research and Theory", which took place on April 26th.
  • On Feb. 16th 2021 we realized a keynote lecture in cooperation with AG Moving Images by Hideaki Fujiki, who elaborated on "Ecological Reality as Contesting Global Imaginations: Documentary on Radioactive Waste"
  • The Walk & Talk Series is an interdisciplinary podcast, for which we invite scholars to present their studies while going on a walk with us and exploring a surrounding that is linked to their research field. "Walk & Talk - the podcast on culture theory and practice on the walk" - came forth by an initiative from Oikos/RA 9 in 2020. Since then Walk & Talk publishes one episode per term.
  • On the 9th and 10th of December 2019 Oikos hosted a postgraduate workshop on the topic "Ecocriticism and Narrative Form" in collaboration with the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture, and Environment (EASLCE). Prof. Dr. Erin James (University of Idaho) presented as a guest lecturer and Dr. Michael Basseler (JLU Giessen, GCSC) functioned as a second senior scholar throughout the event. Here you can find further information on the event as well as the CfP. A special issue of SubStance with the contribution of the workshop participants is currently in progress.
  • On 11th June 2019, Oikos, in cooperation with the JLU Geography Department’s working group Climatology, Climate Dynamics and Climate Change, welcomed historian Prof. John Haldon (Princeton University) for a keynote lecture. On Wednesday, 12th June, an open seminar on transdisciplinary climate research, with Prof. Haldon, Prof. Jürg Luterbach (JLU) and Dr. Elena Xoplaki (JLU), took place. For more information on the events, see: John Haldon: St Theodore – Euchaïta and Anatolia, c. 500-1000. Landscape, climate and the survival of an empire.
  • On 14th May 2019, Oikos and the GGS Section Human Animal Studies organized a film screening of the documentary “Storytelling for Earthly Survival”, followed by a video Q&A with Donna Haraway. For more information see: Donna Haraway – Storytelling for Earthly Survival.
  • In 2016, the team of the Oikos group has been engaged with other researchers in our center preparing the conference ‘For What It’s Worth: Nostalgia, Sustainability, and the Values of the Present. The conference proceedings have been turned into a theoretical publication, which has been published 2019: Andressa Schröder / Nico Völker / Robert A. Winkler / Tom Clucas (eds.) Futures Worth Preserving: Cultural Constructions of Nostalgia and Sustainability. Transcript, 2019.


Interested in joining us, you have ideas for an event, a cooperation, or any other question? Inspiration and contributions from new members and partners are always very welcome! Just write an email to:

  • Anna Tabouratzidis (anna.tabouratzidis[at]

Current Members:

  • Dr. Anna Tabouratzidis
  • Dr. Deborah de Muijnck
  • Dorothea Sawon
  • Helene Heuser
  • Siyu Li
  • Prof. Dr. Richard Grusin (GCSC/RCSC Distinguished Research Fellow)
  • Fabricio Belsoff
  • Candace Goodrich

Former Members:

  • Sarah Kristin Happersberger
  • Fabian Pindus
  • Paola Solis
  • Dr. habil. Michael Basseler
  • Florentine Schoog

  • Edward Djordjevic
  • Lukas Helbich
  • Liza Bauer
  • Maaike Hommes
  • Benjamin Roers
  • Stefano Rozzoni
  • Hannah Klaubert
  • Tom Clucas
  • Lauren Greyson
  • Alesya Krit
  • Eva-Maria Mueller
  • Andreea Racles
  • Eva Raimann
  • Sonja Schillings
  • Silke Schmidt
  • Andressa Schröder
  • Nico Völker
  • Jakob Lundgren