The five-day intensive PhD workshop ‘The natures of life and death: political ecologies of collapse, transformation and revival’ gives motivated PhD students the chance to deepen their knowledge on diverse political ecological approaches to contemporary environmental crises, strategies for conservation and environmentalism in response to the crises, and the broader processes of transformation these are part of. Given the intensity, impacts and catastrophic images of the crises and the hectic discourses around them, political ecologists are increasingly arguing that the very natures of how we understand life and death are changing. On the one hand, we are seeing a rapid growth of studies that try to grapple with the manifold implications of mass ecosystem, animal and plant extinctions within broader contexts of (anticipated) societal collapse. Inspired by broader humanities, political economy and critical theory debates, these studies deal with the emotional, historical, political and power dimensions of dying species, lives, futures and forms of being and their consequences for human-nonhuman relations. A growing strand of this discussion, including a rising wave of ‘collapsology’, asserts that things have grown so bad that there is no longer any realistic chance to stave off ecological devastation and hence that we should instead focus on figuring out how to cope with the aftermath. On the other hand, we are seeing a renewed attention for the ways in which human and nonhuman life changes and adapts to ongoing transformations, which also includes the re-appearance of forms of (wild and other) life in places where these had long been extinct. Political ecologists have started to register these urgent and emerging developments, study their manifold empirical dimensions and understand and debate their implications for an environmental politics capable of responding to the scale.
Research School for Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment