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Doing IPS Spring Symposium (2nd Edition): Navigating Catastrophic Times

When: Friday, April 19, 2024, 9:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Where: Room: Octagon, Queens' Building, Queen Mary University of London, 327 Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS

One-day symposium organised by Doing-IPS, IHSS Environmental Futures Research Programme and TheoryLAB (School of Politics and International Relations)

This symposium interrogates discourses and imaginaries of intensified crises threatening the survival of individuals, nations, species, and the planet. The menace of multiplying catastrophic events, such as global wars and extinction, can lead to pervasive defeatism and depression or end-time forms of hedonism and thinking. We explore if and how navigating catastrophic times can also reenergise political discourses and practices as a means to re-assign meanings to a life in peril and to re-locate deflated hopes. We are interested in how apocalyptic horizons move individuals to take action in the present, which is all we have against a felt-approaching end-time. In other words, we are interested in how end-thinking and urgency play a role in politicising environmental challenges, migration, global health, and other issues. In so doing we wish to interrogate the politics of catastrophic thinking to activate imaginaries that stretch, re-write, re-think the future anew. To unpack these dynamics, the symposium brings together scholars from across the humanities and social sciences around three thematic roundtables on the Planthroposcene, military imaginaries and theories of time.

Roundtable 1: The Planthroposcene

This roundtable is preoccupied with environmental catastrophes and extinction. Our starting point is Natasha Myers’ concept of the Planthroposcene: a vision of the future “grounded in the relationship between plants and people”. For Myers, the Planthropocene is an attitude towards life that is appreciative of nonhuman agency to redefine the meanings and politics of social justice. In this roundtable, we explore modes of communing with plants at home, in gardens, and green spaces outside the city. We present examples that could illustrate the practicing of the Planthroposcene at a time of environmental doom to explore how plant-care-work enables different imaginaries of the future and its temporalities. We ask, what does it mean to commune with plants? What can plant-human solidarities produce? How can the Planthroposcene help us in the process of re-imagining the future?

Roundtable 2: militarising end-times and the untimeliness of life

The roundtable explores military mobilisations of catastrophic and apocalyptic imaginaries and their implications. These imaginaries often emerge when highlighting the unique features of new military technologies and their impact on the existing global, international, or planetary order. Both the justifications for military developments and their contestations evoke catastrophic and apocalyptic visions, but their imaginaries differ. In ongoing debates surrounding the use of Artificial Intelligence and the creation of autonomous weaponry, concerns are raised about the end of human autonomy. Discussions on nuclear weapons often have involved the potential for the end of civilisations and apocalyptic destruction of life on Earth, leading to contesting views on nuclear armament. The concept of an impending planetary disaster resulting from climate change draws on the parallel advancements in meteorology and nuclear weaponry, which sparked the creation of doomsday scenarios depicting a nuclear winter. In navigating the contemporary, it is equally crucial to examine points of view that address the risks and issues of the present day without resorting to apocalyptic and catastrophic imaginings that portray the current era as yet another end-time, a time when ways of life are facing existential threats, and everything that is known or familiar is on the verge of extinction. This roundtable explores: in which ways are apocalyptic ideas present in the development and evaluation of military technology? What are the potential drawbacks and risks of using catastrophic scenarios to study military practice and technology? What are possible alternative ways of critically examining militarization and military advancements that do not rely on end-time depictions?

Roundtable 3. Timing without an end? The role of finitude and finality for theorising time.  

Catastrophic and apocalyptic events, imaginaries and rhetoric do not just play a key role in politicising issues, but also in timing them. Wartime-like exceptional measures, for instance, are contingent on their temporariness and the promise of peace- or normal times to come. Modalities of urgent, abrupt, and finite end-thinking also seem to lie at the very core of how we think about time and temporality in the first place. In traditional distinctions between natural and historical time, the former sets the limits of the latter. Historical time, in turn, is premised on the intrinsically finite phenomenological categories of experience and expectation. Similarly, social constructionist understandings of times, are often equally anthropocentric and therefore temporally bounded. This roundtable seeks to critically engage and re-think some of the very theoretical premises of catastrophism and apocalypticism: end-thinking and temporal limits. It asks: is it desirable and even possible to think time without endings, limits, and other temporal boundaries? Which socio-political possibilities and horizons do we open up if we de-link time and temporality from finality and finitude? 


09:30 - 10:00            Welcome Coffee

10:00 - 10:30            Introduction

10:30 - 12:00            Roundtable 1: The Planthroposcene

Chair: Giulia Carabelli

Speakers: Larisa Jasarevic (independent), Imayna Caceres (Adademie der Bildende Kuenst), Martin Savransky (Goldsmiths University), Darya Tsymbalyuk (New Europe College)

12:00 - 13:00            Lunch

13:00 - 14:30            Roundtable 2: Militarising end-times and the untimeliness of life

Chair: Jef Huysmans

Speakers: Antoine Bousquet (Swedish Defence University), Caroline Holmqvist (Swedisch Defence University), Rens van Munster (Danish Institute for International Studies), Elke Schwarz (Queen Mary University of London)

14:30 - 15:00            Tea & Coffee Break

15:00 - 16:30            Roundtable 3: Timing without an end? The role of finitude and finality for theorising time.

Chair: Mirko Palestrino

Speakers: Melissa Gatter (University of Sussex), Andrew Hom (University of Edinburgh), Nomi Claire Lazair (University of Ottawa), Delfi Nieto-Isabel (Queen Mary University of London).

16:45 - 19:00            Conclusion and Reception (Common Room, 7th Floor, Graduate Centre)

Picture credit: Jr Korpa

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