CfP ECPR 2020

Politics for Catastrophic Times: how to find the terrestrial
Panel Proposal, ECPR General Conference 2020

Deadline: 10th of February, 2020 – send abstract (no more than 500 words) to and

Louise Knops, doctoral candidate, Political Science department, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Dr. Mihnea Tanasescu, post-doctoral researcher, Research Foundation Flanders, Political Science
department, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

The Anthropocene is the geo-epoch in which we find ourselves today, a period of history that is characterized by the transformative impact of human activities on the global scale of geology. In recent years, the body of literature exploring the political consequences of this new historical reality
has expanded tremendously. For example, Isabelle Stengers’ essay, “in Catastrophic Times: resisting the coming barbarism” (2015), from which this panel borrows its title, is a lucid examination of what thinking politically in this new geological time requires. Bruno Latour, in both Facing Gaia (2017) and Coming Down to Earth (2018), has announced that politics will from now on happen in a New Climatic Regime. This opens a number of paths for reflection, some of which this panel is interested in investigating further. Latour goes beyond a diagnosis of the tragedy that is unfolding and offers a normative direction to adapt to it without succumbing to ethno-nationalism or epistemological delirium.

It is urgent to shift sideways and define politics as ‘what leads toward the Earth and not toward the global or the national’. Belonging to a territory is the phenomenon most in need of rethinking and careful re-description; learning new ways to inhabit the Earth is our biggest challenge. Bringing us down to earth is the task of politics today’ (Latour, 2018). This move sideways is driven by the attraction to “the Terrestrial”. Yet, it remains unclear what this might mean in concrete political terms.

In this panel, we invite contributions that attempt to engage with this exercise. In particular, we welcome contributions that go beyond traditional approaches in social science by front-staging the Anthropocene as decisive contextual factor and considering “nature” no longer as décor of politics but as political actor in its own right. We particularly welcome multi-disciplinary contributions that grapple with what the terrestrial might mean for politics today, how we might re-design political theories and systems for the Anthropocene, and how classic ideological notions (such as freedoms and liberty) are changing under the increasing geological nature of political conflicts.

We are particularly interested in:

  • Theoretical contributions which revisit democratic theory to re-imagine politics in the Anthropocene.
  • Conceptual and methodological contributions which discuss methods to approach politics and political phenomena in the new climatic regime.
  • Empirical contributions that present cases of movements, actors, institutions that accommodate more-than-humans and prefigure a terrestrial kind of politics,
  • Undisciplined contributions that spell out in practical detail the possibilities of a terrestrial politics.

Questions of interest might be:

  • What would “Terrestrial” politics look like?
  • To what extent is climate change redefining the landscape of political conflicts, cleavages and ideologies today?
  • How can affect theories reorient our understanding of politics as an exercise in becoming terrestrial?
  • What are the limitations of conceptualizing Anthropocene politics through the dominant metaphor of climate change?
  • What is the place of ecology, and science in general, in the new climatic regime?
  • Which are the contemporary movements and contentious actors that are already signalling a move towards terrestrial politics, and what lessons can we learn from them?

These are just a few questions to be approached and debated during this panel.. Authors from a wide range of disciplines are invited to submit their papers: political sciences, sociology, philosophy, geography, social movement studies, political ecology, human ecology, feminist theory and gender studies, urban studies, anthropology, cultural studies, etc. We do not expect ready answers, but rather welcome a series of papers that can help us take the debate on terrestrial politics one step further.

Keywords: climate change, anthropocene, political ecology, political theory, the terrestrial, environmental politics.

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