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'Epistemologies of Soil' gloknos Symposium

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  • UserMaarten Meijer (University of Groningen)
  • ClockFriday 26 November 2021, 00:00-00:00
  • HouseOnline via zoom.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Samantha Peel.

’Epistemologies of Soil’ Symposium – 26 November 2021

Abstract: As evidenced by discussions on soil degradation, soil carbon sequestration, peak soil, soil health, soil care, and soil art, soils are very much on the menu in public life in the 21st century. Yet, simultaneously this (re)turn to visibility of soils present us with a re-appreciation of soils, especially its living character and its interactions with the atmospheric carbon cycles (Puig de la Bellacasa 2019). Thus, in today’s context of planetary change and the social anxieties it generates, the philosopher Bruno Latour argues, “the very notion of soil is changing” (Latour 2018, 4).

What to make of this changing notion of soil, and the return of soil as a public matter of concern? And, if indeed the notion of soil operational in today’s problematizations of it presupposes epistemological change, what kind of soil epistemologies would enable us to give shape to more just eco-social futures? These questions are all the more pertinent in a context in which forms of life, production and consumption are called into question by the intrusion of Gaia and the ongoing process of planetary negotiation that her intrusion instigates (Stengers 2015).

Recent scholarship in the humanities and social sciences has formulated responses to these questions by critiquing dominant soil epistemologies and discourses, and exploring alternative conceptions and practices of soils. In line with the former, environmental historians, political ecologists, and eco-social geographers have explored how soil science historically has been and continues to be implicated in projects of racist, colonialist, and capitalist governance (Holleman 2018; Sant 2018; Engel-di Mauro 2014). Additionally, more anthropologically-oriented scholars have outlined more-than and different-than human soil epistemologies, in order to decolonise soil discourses and open the conversation to a broader range of soil epistemologies and practices (Salazar et al. 2020; Krzywoszynska and Marchesi 2020; Lyons 2020, Engel-di Mauro 2014).

This symposium seeks to stage a conversation between some of these complementary voices in soil scholarship in the humanities and social sciences in order to explore questions situated at the intersection of soil epistemologies, politics, and planetary change.

Programme 14:00-14:30 Introduction by Maarten Meijer, and a short presentation by Inanna Hamati-Ataya

14:30-15:00 Matteo de Donà On the global soil governance in the Global Soil Partnership

15:00-15:30 Germain Meulemans Engineering Soils in the Re-making of Paris

15:30-16:00 Questions and audience discussion

16:00-16:30 Salvatore Engel-di Mauro On eco-social soil epistemology

16:30-17:00 Narciso Barrera-Bassols On research and practice of ethnopedology


18:00-18:50 Final discussions and closing remarks

Organiser: Maarten Meijer is a doctoral candidate at the Department of International Relations at the University of Groningen. His doctoral research focusses on the history of soil as an institution of geo-biopolitical governance, drawing on histories of infrastructure, technology, (soil) sciences, colonialism, and fascism. More broadly, he is interested in political and environmental thought, cosmologies of the end, and philosophies of translation and diplomacy.

Attendance is free but spaces may be limited, so please email to reserve a space in the Zoom audience. Please be aware that we will take a recording of this event, which may include any questions and responses delivered by the audience.

See the full programme of speakers online here

gloknos is initially funded for 5 years by the European Research Council through a Consolidator Grant awarded to Dr Inanna Hamati-Ataya for her project ARTEFACT (2017-2022) ERC grant no. 724451.

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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