Workshop series outline

Asking urban nature scholars from three urban areas (Northern Italy, Öresund, and Eastern Germany) to consider time and temporalities of urban nature through the themes of narratives, imaginaries, and practices, the series seeks to initiate a pan-European, interdisciplinary conversation and to facilitate future cutting-edge research on the temporalities of urban nature in the Anthropocene.

Thematic and theoretical framing

The search for viable avenues for multispecies coexistence is becoming a defining feature in the era of the Anthropocene. Only in the past year, the concurrent emergencies of climate change and SARSCov2 have thrown into light the intimate relations between human-shaped environments and the disastrous deterioration of formerly thriving ecosystems. In cities, where artificial landscapes and lively ecologies meet, the question of more-than-human cohabitation comes to a head. Today, there is growing recognition among both researchers and urban professionals that cities form important sites of refuge for threatened species and fragile biodiversities (Schilthuizen 2019), which are themselves being increasingly incorporated into sustainable urban planning projects (Hauck & Weisser 2015). Yet, as critics point out, such “greening” practices can lead to the displacement, rather than safeguarding, of vulnerable human and non-human urban dwellers (Patrick 2014). Consequently, more-than-human appropriations of urban space illuminate complex challenges, but also potential solutions, to a sustainable co-existing in the Anthropocene city.

Urban nature scholarship, with its tendency to emphasise spatial tensions and entanglements, nevertheless risks omitting an integral part of more-than-human urban life and successful cohabitations: that of time and diverging temporalities. Recent theoretical efforts to ascribe agency to non-human beings in socio-ecological presents (Bennett 2009; Barad 2011) as well as nearby Anthropocenic futures (Haraway 2016; Tsing et al. 2017), have highlighted the importance of accounting for both temporal and spatial dimensions beyond a shared, linear time-space (Rose & Wylie 2006). With this predominantly narrow focus on temporal taxonomies, either drawn from ecological systems research or from social constructivist notions of time (Adam 1998), a more diverse understanding of the temporalities of urban natures is currently lacking.

Drawing inspiration from urban ecology (Kowarik & Körner 2005); social scientific critiques of (urban) nature conservation (Igoe 2017; Lorimer 2015); eco-materialist theories of climate change and non-human temporalities (Rossini et al. 2017; Neimanis & Walker 2014); the interlinkages of cities with deep time (Gandy 2018); “Anthropocene urbanism” (Derickson 2018); and notions of time as a modality of power (Sharma 2014), this seminar series seeks to explore how different temporal entanglements structure, affect and co-produce urban landscapes, and by extension the Anthropocene city. We do so by framing our series around three overlapping thematic interrogations: narratives, imaginaries, and practices.

Material Narratives of Urban Natures

We are interested in examining urban natures as material testimonies of urban pasts, presents, and potential futures. Bringing environmental musings from anthropology, archaeology, and geography (Ingold 1993; Jones 2011) – where linear, historical time is but one of many temporalities affecting landscapes – to urban settings, we ask how narratives of the urban may be reconstructed to include the material agencies and storytelling of non-human beings and more-than-human urban cohabitation. 

Environmental Imaginaries of Urban Change

Drawing on Massey’s (2005) time-space dialectic where space unfolds through social interaction and leaves time to trace and demonstrate the emergence of material change, we turn to environmental imaginaries to untangle how tensions around changes in urban natures do not solely concern human spatio-temporal schemas but also divergent, contradicting, and embodied more-than-human temporalities (Bastian 2014). We are interested in how rhetorics of urban progress and ideologies of conservation often establish a division between matter-in-time and matter out-of-time, assigning culpability to those that “block” change or are the supposed causes of undesirable changes. A focus on environmental imaginaries through the temporal perspectives of growth and stagnation, decay and death, aims to interrogate the favouring of linear, teleological timeframes (rather than circular, seasonal, and so forth) as the basis for determining urban change or progress.

Practices of Environmental Design

Building on Pschetz and Bastian’s (2018) concept of time as social coordination, we want to address the value of adopting a temporal approach when designing for the Anthropocene city. Planners and designers are increasingly paying attention to the complexity of urban temporalities, from the affective milieus of open space designs (Bissell 2010) to the seasonal rhythms and timeframes of particular species or ecologies (Leonardi & Stagi 2019). In particular, we are interested in exploring how urban natures, initially encouraged and designed for, over time come to be seen as nuisances (Lyytimäki et al. 2008), and, conversely, how the temporal qualities of previously undesirable or overlooked non-human bodies become fundamental elements in the design practice.  

Format

The series unfolds as two-day workshops on 3 separate occasions. Each workshop pivots around one specific regional cluster of European urban nature research (Northern Italy, Öresund, and Eastern Germany, respectively), focusing on local studies from each area. The intention behind this interlacing is to put the regional case studies and methodological approaches into conversation with one another, and to use this comparative approach to introduce novel theoretical perspectives to a wider canon on the temporalities of urban natures.

Each workshop will be run in a hybrid format (in person and online) to accommodate for potential travel and gathering restrictions caused by the pandemic. This mixed-attendance approach allows time-poor senior researchers, persons with caring duties, and means-poor ECRs and PhD students to commit to the full series without necessarily having to physically travel to the three different locations. In the spirit of building and maintaining conversations around the series, papers will be selected according to both the relevance of the proposed topic and the applicants capacity to participate in each of the three workshops (online or in person). 

 Each two-day workshop spans one afternoon session (Thursday or Friday) and one full day (Friday or Saturday):
  The initial afternoon will take place on a virtual platform with a session à 4 paper presentations followed by a chaired panel discussion.
  Next day, starts with a topical site visit for physically present participants.

The afternoon will see the in-person participants and the virtual participants come   together online – with one regionally-focused keynote lecture and the impressions from the earlier field visit laying the basis for the afternoon discussion.

Full programme will be uploaded closer to Workshop 1.

Locations and dates

Spanning the academic year of 2021-22, the workshops will take place in three different physical locations:

Workshop 1 – VENICE

23-24 September 2021  | Humanities and Social Change, Center at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

Workshop 2 –  MALMÖ

25-26 March 2022 | Institute for Urban Research, Malmö Universitet

 

Workshop 3 – BERLIN

24-25 June 2022 | Georg-Simmel-Center for Metropolitan Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Bibliography

Adam, B. (1998). Timescapes of Modernity: The Environment and Invisible Hazards. London: Routledge.

Barad, K. (2011). ‘Nature’s Queer Performativity.’ Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences, 19 (2) 121-158.

Bastian, M. (2014). ‘Time and Community: A Scoping Study.’ Time and Society 23 (2) 137–66. 

Bennett, J. (2009). Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.

Bissell, D. (2010). ‘Passenger Mobilities: Affective Atmospheres and the Sociality of Public Transport.’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 (2): 270–89. 

Derickson, K. D. (2018). ‘Urban geography III : Anthropocene urbanism.’ Progress in Human Geography, 42 (3) 425-435.

Gandy, M. (2018). ‘Cities in deep time.’ CITY, 22 (1) 96-105.

Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.

Hauck, T.E. and Weisser, W.W. (2015) AAD – Animal-Aided Design. Projektbroschüre. Bayerischen Staatsministerium für Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz. 

Igoe, J. (2017). The nature of spectacle: On images, money, and conserving capitalism. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Ingold, T. (1993) ‘The Temporality of the Landscape’. World Archaeology 25 (2), 152–174. 

Jones, O. (2011) ‘Lunar-Solar Rhythmpatterns: Towards the Material Cultures of Tides’. Environment and Planning A 43, 2285–2303.

Kowarik, I., & Körner, S. (eds.) (2005). Wild Urban Woodlands: New perspectives for urban forestry. Berlin: Springer. 

Leonardi, C. and Stagi, F. (2019 [1983]). The Architecture of Trees. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press.

Lorimer, J. (2015). Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Lyytimäki, J., L. K. Petersen, B. Normander, & P. Bezák. (2008). “Nature as a Nuisance? Ecosystem Services and Disservices to Urban Lifestyle.” Environmental Sciences 5 (3): 161–72. 

Neimanis, A., & Walker, R. L. (2014). ‘Weathering : Climate Change and the “Thick Time” of Transcorporeality.’ Hypatia, 29 (3) 558-575.

Patrick, D.J. (2014) ‘The Matter of Displacement: A Queer Urban Ecology of New York City’s High Line’. Social & Cultural Geography 15 (8), 920–941. 

Pschetz, L., & Bastian, M. (2018). ‘Temporal Design: Rethinking time in design.’ Design studies, 56, 169–184.

Rose, M., & Wylie, J. (2006). ‘Animating Landscape.’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24: 475–79. 

Rossini, M., Toggweiler, M., and Gilbert, J. (2017). Posthuman temporalities. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Sharma, S., (2014). In the Meantime, Durham: Duke University Press.

Schilthuizen, M. (2019) Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution. London: Quercus. 

Tsing, A.L., Bubandt, N., Gan, E., and Swanson, H.A. (eds.) (2017). Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.