2013, Thu, Jan 10

Island: Perspectives

With Akeel Bilgrami (Department of Philosophy, Columbia University, New York), Ursula K. Heise (Institute of Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles), Erle Ellis (Department of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, Baltimore). Moderation: Julia Voss (art historian and journalist, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurt)

This “island” will address one of the central problematics of the Anthropocene hypothesis, asking: how do we see? What perspectives are on view in an Anthropocene planet? Is the role of man over-privileged, setting him up as godlike master and maker of the earth? Or is man de-privileged, as he and nature have immanently reunited? Who can insist on, influence and/or control the ways in which we see? What are the political, social and cultural implications of these perspectives? Is it so simple to take on a “new” way of seeing? If the Anthropocene can be approached as a great equalizer, one that brings all of nature—the animate and the inanimate—to the same status, what does this imply for how the non-human sees us? How will the natural sciences contend with an intellectual framework in which it seems increasingly difficult to isolate objects for the scientific gaze? A methodology emerges that may preclude the scientist as hovering above, as non-interfering observer; “how we see” becomes influenced by looking, sensing, assessing, and reporting from deeply within the world.



Akeel Bilgrami (New York) is the Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and a founding member of its Committee on Global Thought. His collection of essays "Politics and the Moral Psychology of Identity", will be out next year. He is writing two short books called "What is a Muslim?" and "Gandhi, The Philosopher". His current longterm writing project is on practical reason and politics.


Erle Ellis (Baltimore) is a professor for geography and environmental systems and the director of the laboratory for Anthropogenic Landscape Ecology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His research investigates the ecology of human landscapes at local to global scales with the aim of informing sustainable stewardship of the biosphere in the Anthropocene. Recent projects include the global mapping of human ecology (anthromes), online tools for global synthesis of local knowledge (GLOBE) and inexpensive user-deployed tools for mapping landscapes in 3D (Ecosynth).


Ursula K. Heise (Los Angeles) is professor of English at uClA and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. Her research and teaching focus on contemporary literature, environmental culture in the Americas, Western Europe and Japan, the environmental humanities, and on theories of modernization and globalization in their cultural dimensions. Her books include Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (2008), and Nach der Natur: Das Artensterben und die moderne Kultur (2010).


Julia Voss (Frankfurt) is an art historian, philosopher and journalist. In 2009 she was awarded the Sigmund-Freud-Prize for Scientific Prose. Her PhD thesis "Darwins Bilder: Ansichten der Evolutionstheorie 1837–1874" was published in 2010. Together with Michael Stolleis she recently edited the anthology "Fachsprachen und Normalsprachen" (2012). With Miklas Maak she is head of the Art ressort of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung since 2007.


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