Category Archives: The EHL

How Forests Think: Toward a Beyond-the-Human Anthropology, Eduardo Kohn

In other words, the flux of living thoughts is the ongoing signifying ecology that is life.

This review is written by Daniele Valisena

Do dogs dream? What do those dreams tell about us? Why should it matter to us? And who is “us”? Those are but some of the questions that Eduardo Koch learnt to address from the Runa Puma people in Avila, on East Ecuador Amazonia. “How Forests Think” is a book about finding back the common ground; a common ground which is both material and spiritual, human and animal; a common ground that belongs to the ones who are still alive as well as to the ones who are now dead. The book, which is the result of the many years spent by the South American anthropologist together with the Runa people, can be ascribed as an environmental humanities work, though the author does not state it. Nonetheless, in the introduction the author writes that one of his goals is “neither to do away with the human nor to re-inscribe it, but to open it”. What does he mean with opening “the human”? And how does that relate with dogs’ dreams? The point he wants to stress is that both humans and dogs are in a relationship, as all the living beings do. To criticize the Cartesian divide and the human exceptionalism which spurs from it means to change western scholars point of view and to start seeing as a runa puma – a were-jaguar – which is both human and non-human, dead and alive, corporeal and transcorporeal. All Living beings are signs – according to Koch, which gets this from the American philosopher Charles Pierce, the founder of semiotics –, which means that they are all ongoing relational process of signification. From this ontologically egalitarian standpoint, Koch elaborates a phenomenology of life that is built upon the infinite relationships and encounters that unite human with all other living beings. Those are all selves in that they interpret and react to any socio-environmental interaction they participate to and co-produce. The co-production of signifying relations of which Koch talks about can be framed as well as an ecological network that is the result of the bodily and affective trajectories of all the living beings. Those trajectories are in Ingoldian terms the “waypoints” of the semiotic process that is life.

Although the manuscript is the result of a “human and more-than-human ethnography”, and thus easier to approach for anthropologists, the book’s theoretical grounding is heavily informed by Charles Pierce philosophy and semiotic theory. Some readers might find this semiotic structure a bit heavy, especially since it is mostly enunciated in the first chapter. But with some patience the reader will find her reward in the next five chapters.

For Runas, dogs’ dreams can be interpreted and dogs partake the same spirit that inhabits humans. Hence dogs’ dreams matter to Runa Puma and to all humans because, differently from language driven epistemology, those dreams are part of the relational signification process that is life. Life is then the ensemble of all the threads of living beings and their thoughts. In other words, the flux of living thoughts is the ongoing signifying ecology that is life. Very much alike Donna Haraway’s “being together with”, the “ecology of selves” that Koch illustrates offers to environmental humanities scholar an ethnographical account and some theoretical tools to investigate more-than-human ecologies and their disruption, and to walk together in the common living ground of the anthropocene. Quoting the author, “being alive – being in the flow of life – involves aligning ourselves with an ever-increasing array of emerging habits. But being alive is more than being in habit [… and it can also be] a product of disruption and shock”. In relation to the anthropocenic totality which annihilates responsibility and magnify in geological term humanity, the ecology of selves that Koch interpret and give voice to can hence offer a different form of enchantment, which opens to more responsible and partaken ways of inhabiting life.

 

Be sure to check out the ENTITLE blog – a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

Entitle blog is a collaborative writing effort that looks at the world through the lens of political ecology. For us, Political Ecology is a perspective that seeks to understand who is involved in, and who benefits or loses from, how our environment is produced and reproduced.

It was founded in 2014 by fellows of the European Network of Political Ecology (ENTITLE) as an outlet to share, reflect on and discuss research and activist experiences, observations, methodologies, news, events, publications, art, music and other themes and objects related to political ecology.

Toxic Bios is a project at the EHL, lead by Marco Armiero and funded by Seed Box. The project page can be visited here!

Maria di Buono, wife of Michele Liguori, the policeman working in the Land of Fires that died of cancer. Photo by Giovanni Mussolini during the story recording session hosted by Women of August 29 social movement in Acerra (Italy). From the blog post: Toxic Bios: A guerrilla narrative project mapping contamination, illness and resistance 

Goodbye Giacomo!

Last day at the Divison! We will miss you Giacomo.

On December 1 we said goodbye to our fellow guest researcher Giacomo Bonan who has been working with the EHL on a C.M Lerici visiting scholarship during the fall. Giacomo’s expertise is the Alps, and together with Stefano Morosini (who is a visitor within the same scholarship) he held the brown bag seminar “Mountains and Mountaineering in the Alpine Space between XIX and XX Century – Two Environmental Humanities Case-Studies” in late November this year.

If you are interested in the research Giacomo is doing you can read his publications and follow his profile on Academia.net

This was Giacomo’s second visit at the Divsion, and even though he got a position back in Italy, we certainly hope that he will be back to visit us soon again. Not just because we got to drink wine on the day that he left, but mostly because he has become a dear colleague to many of us.

Occupy Climate Change (OCC!)! 

instead of studying the resilient subjects, we should “identify the actors and processes that produce the need to build resilience in the first place” (ibid.)

Northwest Washington, Washington, United States
Shot on Pennsylvania Ave near the Capitol. Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/cpAKc-G6lPg

We are happy to announce that the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory recently received a positive message from Formas. The project Occupy Climate Change!, proposed by Marco Armiero, is awarded almost 900.000 euros over three years. 

“OCC! explores how urban communities can respond to Loss and Damages by investigating new and insurgent citizenship practices and new types of knowledge. Focusing on the practices and experiments of grassroots organizations across different cases (New York, Rio, Istanbul, Naples, Stockholm), it aims to identify how these diverse, dynamic, self-organised responses to loss undo or embrace damage. This endeavor requires a critical appraisal of the highly contested narratives of societal resilience (Kaika, 2017). As Kaika argues, instead of studying the resilient subjects, we should “identify the actors and processes that produce the need to build resilience in the first place” (ibid.), engaging critically with the material basis reproducing injustice.” Summary taken from the project application, written by Marco Armiero.

To kick off this project a coffee talk together with Doreen Stabinsky is planned for late November this fall. Please visit the lab’s  Facebook page for more news, event updates and interesting articles. 

Conferment of two Doctoral Degrees


Friday November 17 the annual ceremony for the conferment of doctoral degrees was held in Stockholm City Hall. The Division was proud to have two former doctoral students on stage; Dr Daniel Svensson and Dr Isabel Pérez. A few of us, who couldn’t make it to the City Hall due to not having defended during the past year, cheerfully and proudly followed the streamed ceremony at KTH.se.

Daniel, who can also put the titles poet and pro exerciser next to Doctor, is currently a researcher and lecturer at the Division of Science, Technology and Society at Chalmers in Gothenburg. However he still works with Sverker Sörlin in our project Movement Heritage, funded by Riksantikvarieämbetet. He defended his thesis in December 2016.

Doctor Isabel was the first doctoral student to defend from the EHL. She has now moved back to Spain and is currently looking for open positions. We can certify that her next employer will not only have a competent and diligent co-worker, but also a great colleague and friend who can set color to even the grayest of November days. Isabel defended in June this year.

We wish them both the best of luck and joy!