Next NatureCultures Lab! Reading and Discussion Session on Alf Hornborg

Mon, 18.6.2018 | 12:15-13:45 | SFG 2210


Alf Hornborg (2017) Artifacts have consequences, not agency: Toward a critical theory of global environmental history. European Journal of Social Theory 20(1), 95-110.

This article challenges the urge within Actor-Network Theory, posthumanism, and the ontological turn in sociology and anthropology to dissolve analytical distinctions between subject and object, society and nature, and human and non-human. It argues that only by acknowledging such distinctions and applying a realist ontology can exploitative and unsustainable global power relations be exposed. The predicament of the Anthropocene should not prompt us to abandon distinctions between society and nature but to refine the analytical framework through which we can distinguish between sentience and non-sentience and between the symbolic and non-symbolic. The incompatibility of posthumanist and Marxist approaches to the Anthropocene and the question of agency derives from ideological differences as well as different methodological proclivities. A central illustration of these differences is the understanding of fetishism, a concept viewed by posthumanists as condescending but by Marxists as emancipatory.


Workshop „Global Ethnography. Marketization in Everyday Life: Concepts, Methods, Ideas“

15th & 16th of June 2018 with Koray Çalışkan, Elizabeth Saleh und Nikolas Schall

The Workshop focuses on the ethnographic study of global economies and markets, their coming into being and their consequences. Koray Çalışkan’s work on global cotton will be compared to case studies of very different „global commodities“: among them Matsutake gourmet mushrooms (Anna Tsing), scrap metal (Elizabeth Saleh), more cotton (Nikolas Schall), Bitcoins (Koray Çalışkan) and human sperm and egg cells (Michi Knecht). We will discuss the academic and political relevance of new empirical research that shows the dynamic processes of price realization, the contributions of scientific propositions in the making of markets, the daily interventions and negotiations as well as the importance of seeing markets as a continuous relationship of power. We will also work on methodological, epistemological and conceptual questions of “global ethnographies” and the development of „global ethnography research designs“ that blend rigorous ethnography with rich theoretical analysis.


With: Koray Çalışkan, (Boğaziçi University, Political Sciences and International Relations), Elizabeth Saleh (American University of Beirut) & Nikolas Schall (IRTG Diversity, University of Trier)

Venue: Academy for Continuing Education, Bremen University, Central Area, Bibliothekstrasse 2a, Room No B0770

Concept & ContactMichi Knecht (University of Bremen), Souad Zeineddine  (a.r.t.e.s Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne, University of Cologneand Lilli Hasche (University of Bremen)

 (Email: /

Workshop: „Uncanny Futures: Speculative Ecologies of Waste“

Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK), Delmenhorst, 15-16 March 2018

Foto: Sven Bergmann

The international workshop is organized by Sven Bergmann and Franziska Klaas from the Department of Anthropology and Cultural Research at Bremen University and Yusif Idies from the Institute for Geography at Münster University.

It is funded by the University Bremen within the frame of the Research Project „Knowing the Seas as NatureCultures: Understanding the role of collaboration, experiment and reflexivity in interdisciplinary marine research and in knowledge practices and material politics with regard to ocean plastics“.

Workshop participation is already closed, for a program see:

Vortrag von Annekatrin Skeide am 08. Januar 2018

How many bodies can we have? – Methodische und methodologische Überlegungen zu phänomenologischen und materiell-semiotischen Körperkonzeptionen

Mon, 8.1.2018 | 12:15-13:45 | SFG 2210


Phänomenologische und materiell-semiotische Konzeptionen von menschlichen Körpern erscheinen zunächst in ihren Vorannahmen, Interessen und Resultaten unterschiedlich, wenn nicht unvereinbar. In den material semiotics handelt es sich um Körper-im-Werden (bodies-in-becoming/bodies-in-progress), die in Praktiken hergestellt werden, an denen menschliche und nichtmenschliche Akteure gleichsam beteiligt sind. Der phänomenologische Eigenleib (corps propre), also der gelebte und gespürte Körper, verankert den Menschen in der Welt und ermöglicht Erfahrung. Er ist, im Unterschied zum von außen wahrgenommenen Körper, immer schon da. Eine Möglichkeit wäre nun, diese Körper nebeneinander bestehen zu lassen, als bodies we are, bodies we have und bodies we do (Mol and Law 2004).

In meinem Vortrag möchte ich jedoch mithilfe meines ethnographischen Materials zu Hebammenpraktiken in Deutschland darüber nachdenken, wie diese Körper zusammengebracht werden können. Besonders interessant erscheint mir daran, dass die bodies we do unter Berücksichtigung von experiences-in-practices etwas an ihrer unausweichlichen Vorläufigkeit verlieren, während die bodies we are, umgekehrt, destabilisiert werden. Phänomene wie ‚Wehen‘ und ‚Wehenschmerz‘ können somit als experiences-in-practices beschrieben werden, an deren Entstehung und mehr oder weniger vorläufigen Stabilisierung über die Zeit bestimmte Techniken, Dinge und Umgebungen beteiligt sind.

Mol, Annemarie, and John Law. 2004. “Embodied Action, Enacted Bodies: The Example of Hypoglycaemia.” Body & Society 10 (2–3): 43–62. doi:10.1177/1357034X04042932.

Annekatrin Skeide is PhD candiate at the University of Amsterdam (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body).

Workshop „Towards a Techno-Ecology of Participation“

Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany, 7-8 December 2017

The international workshop is organized by Prof Dr Erich Hörl and Dr. Yuk Hui from the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media at Leuphana University Lüneburg in cooperation with the Bremen NatureCultures Lab.

It is funded by the German Research Council (DFG) within the frame of the DFG-Research  Group „Media and Participation“ and part of the research project „Techno-Ecologies of Participation: New Perspectives from Media Philosophy and Anthropology“.

For program and details see:

Vortrag von Jan Scheve am 20. November

„Managed Retreat in New Zealand – Governing Coastal Property at Risk from Erosion“

Mon, 20.11. | 12:15-13:45 | SFG 2210

The coast as a dynamic environment poses fundamental problems to the concept of ownership in real estate. Commonly, property is perceived as infinite. There are expectations in property to last forever, to remain undamaged, and to increase in value over time. For many property owners their house is a key part of their retirement planning. Equally, political authorities expect their infrastructures to last and generate overall revenue for the community. However, coastal processes such as erosion and sea level rise pose difficulties for the state apparatus in the creation of stable environments. “Two worlds are colliding at the shoreline—the beautiful, flexible, and infinitely adaptable world that is a beach, and the static, inflexible, urban beachfront world.” (Pilkey and Cooper 2014: xi). The ‘development – defend cycle’ describes the phenomenon that capital assets at risk from erosion are protected with a seawall, and that the construction of such a protection structure then leads to further development and an increase in property values, which in turn demands for an upgrade of the seawall. This continuous development has negative environmental and economic effects, and has increasingly been criticized in recent times.
Since 2010 managed retreat is part of the national legislation in New Zealand. Managed retreat stands for the idea to remove defense structures, buildings and infrastructures away from coastal hazards, and to increase the natural resilience of the coastline against flooding and erosion. Starting from the observation that the current regime of coastal management is more and more problematized, I will focus on the different political rationalities and technological tools that were developed by political authorities to govern the coastal environment and properties at risk. Building on insights from Governmentality studies (Foucault 2007; Rose and Miller 1992; Walters 2012) I will argue that managed retreat is an alteration of the current regime of practices in coastal management, where political authorities are governing property owners through the notion of risk. Focusing on one case study on the Kāpiti Coast, I will analyze an ongoing conflict about the assessment and utilization of hazard lines. Hazard lines are projections of potential erosion risk and are currently used for the administration of building restrictions and an overall disinvestment of coastal property. Guiding questions are: How do political authorities problematize and assess coastal hazards? What political rationalities and technologies of government are constitutive for managed retreat? How does protest form?

BNCL Program Winter 2017/18

Please note the program for the Bremen NatureCultures Lab in the upcoming winter semester. Details will follow with the sessions approaching.

20 November 2017 | 12:15-13:45 | SFG 2210
Jan Scheve „Managed Retreat in New Zealand – Governing Coastal Property at Risk from Erosion“
With this session we can continue our discussions on coastal naturecultures and coastal protection practices from Mai (talk Frieda Gesing). With the help of Jan Scheve (artec, INTERCOAST), who will share with us some insights from his PhD research, we will shift the focus however to coastal environments as property.

18 December 2017 | 12:15-13:45 | SFG 2210
Reading and Discussion Session: Ontologies?!
An attempt to get to grips on the talks of the ‚ontological turn‘ in anthropology, geography and STS collectively. (Reading will be announced)

8 January 2018 | 12:15-13:45 | SFG 2210 (session in German language)
Annekatrin Skeide „How many bodies should we have?“ Methodische & methodologische Überlegungen zu phänomenologischen und materiell semiotischen Körperkonzeptionen

Another session in January 2018 is likely, but has not been confirmed yet.

Please email Katrin Amelang amelang[at] if you would like to join us!

Two Events with Banu Subramaniam

Banu Subramaniam (Prof. of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of  Massachusetts, Amherst) will be our guest for next week.

Writing NatureCultures – Workshop with Banu Subramaniam

Monday, 19.6.17 | 12 (s.t.!)-13:45 | SFG 2210

Against the background of our previous discussions of NatureCultures as heuristic tool or of case studies tackling naturecultures emprically and analytically, this little workshop puts the emphasis on writing naturecultures. For approximating how we can and do write (make visible) naturecultures, we are very happy that Banu Subramaniam will join and share her experiences with writing and mixing genres in „Ghost Stories for Darwin. The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity“ (2014, Ludwik Fleck Prize 2016) with us. Taking her book as a starting point we would like to discuss questions like the following:  What are good formats and genres of describing, narrating, storying, assembling, writing the commingling of nature(s) and culture(s)? What consequenses does an „opening up of epistemic authority“ have for writing naturecultures? How does „writing naturecultures“ differ from „writing cultures“? How is the idea of „being haunted“ transforming the author’s position / voice.

If you have not yet had the chance to read/look into the book please check out at least the attached introduction for preparation.If you are interested in reading further but do not have access to the book, write an email to and we will provide you with the files.

Counter-Narratives of the Enlightenment: Tales from the edges of Science and Religion in India – Talk in the World-of-Contradiction lecture series

Wed, 21.6.17 | 18-20h | Rotunde (Cartesium)

Banu Subramaniam explores the worlds of science and religion in contemporary India. In contrast to other religious fundamentalisms, Hindu nationalism embraces science as an important and critical part of religion. Religious nationalists in contemporary India have selectively, and strategically, used rhetoric from both science and Hinduism, modernity and orthodoxy, western and eastern thought to build a powerful but potentially dangerous vision of a Hindu nation. With aspirations for a global and modern Hinduism, she argues that scientific and religious practices in contemporary India are inextricably interconnected and result in fluid processes and practices of both institutions. In her presentation, she explores how mythological narratives, preternatural tales, and ghostly apparitions mingle effortlessly with animist traditions as well as the material, experimental, and institutional practices of technosciences. This emerging “syncretic pragmatism” challenges us to move beyond the oppositional stances of science and religion, to consider counter narratives to the enlightenment tales of reason and unreason. Ultimately to understand contemporary technoscience in India, we need new epistemological and methodological tools, and story making practices to make visible the many phantasmogoric naturecultural worlds within.

Vortrag von Sven Bergmann am 30. Mai

Das Auftauchen von Mikroplastik: Meeresmüll, marine Wissensproduktion, Umweltgerechtigkeit und die Politik der Maßstäbe

Dienstag, 30.5.2017 | 18:15-19:45 | Rotunde im Cartesium (Enrique-Schmidt-Str. 5)

Plastik(müll) im Meer ist ein hybrides Objekt, emblematisch für Natur-Kultur-Vermischungen und ihre noch unbekannten Auswirkungen. Mit der Etablierung des Begriffs Mikroplastik im Jahr 2004 wurde ein Maßstab eingeführt, um Plastikkonzentrationen im Verhältnis zu Plankton (Salzwasser) oder Fischlarven (Süßwasser) zu bestimmen. Doch was bedeutet eine hohe Konzentration von Mikroplastik in der Umwelt oder in spezifischen Ökosystemen? Was bedeutet es, wenn an bestimmten Stellen in Gewässern viel Mikroplastik enthalten ist oder wenn ein Teil des Sandes am Strand nun aus Plastik-Pellets besteht? Wann wird mit der Problematisierung dieser Maßstäbe ein eher ästhetisches Problem identifiziert und wann wird damit ein Potenzial von physischer oder toxikologischer Gefährdung adressiert?

Wenn menschliche Hinterlassenschaften dazu führen, dass in den Ozeanen neuartige Lebensformen entstehen, irritiert dies die konventionelle Unterscheidung in Kategorien wie Natur und Kultur. Stattdessen fordert es die Sozial- und Kulturwissenschaften heraus, einen neuen analytischen Umgang mit diesen hybriden Gegenständen zu finden.

In seinem Vortrag wird Dr. Sven Bergmann entlang einer anthropologischen und einer STS-Perspektive diesen Verschränkungen nachgegangen. Dabei wird er – ausgehend von seiner ethnografischen Forschung in Deutschland, Neufundland/Kanada und Chile/Rapa Nui – sowohl simple Konzeptionen der Trennung von Natur und Kultur sowie vereinfachte Schemata der technischen Lösung des Problems kritisch diskutieren.

Dr. Sven Bergmann ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Ethnologie und Kulturwissenschaft der Universität Bremen und arbeitet derzeit an zwei Forschungsprojekten zur wissenschaftlichen und politischen Problematisierung von Plastik(müll) in den Meeren:
„Plastik als neue Lebensform“ (Volkswagen-Stiftung) „Knowing the Seas as NatureCultures“ (M4 Explorationsprojekt).