Earth(ly) Matters: Roots, Rebellions & Resolutions

By 28th January 2020 No Comments


“It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories.”

Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble

In the face of unprecedented anthropogenic climate chaos, we are asking what matters on Earth and how Earth matters. What role can the humanities and social sciences play at a time of unprecedented environmental chaos? We want to open up a wide-ranging and imaginative conversation.

In a landmark report published in 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that urgent and unprecedented changes were needed over the following twelve years if global heating was to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C. Alongside that, multiple reports of catastrophic declines in wildlife have led many scientists to declare that we are entering a sixth mass extinction event. Yet despite widespread protests, governments do not appear to be acting with the urgency required to make a substantial difference.

Bearing in mind the influential writer Amitav Ghosh’s claim that the current environmental crisis is “also a crisis of culture, and thus of imagination,” we encourage you to play around with the theme and its words—What’s the matter? What matters? Mind over matter, matters of the heart, in a matter of hours, matter as material, or is that a completely different matter? Earthly matters versus divine matters? No matter what’s the matter in question it is often tied to our existence here on earth and that matters.

Roots: How did we get here? What heritage are we bringing with us? Are there lessons to be learned from past crises in the UK or globally? Can the origins of crises be traced through developments in culture? What role has social policy played in this or other significant crises?

Rebellions: What kind of responses might make a difference in the face of political inaction? How have ordinary people brought about change in the past? What radical new ways of thinking might we need in order to avert catastrophe?

Resolutions: The changes that scientists say we need to make are so far-reaching as to be almost unimaginable. What role has imagination played in the resolution of past crises? Could cultural interventions bring about radical changes in individual thinking and behaviour? What kind of social or educational policies might we need to ensure lasting change?

Possible topics may include but are by no means restricted to:

  • [Environmental] justice and decoloniality
  • The ‘material turn’ in social sciences and the humanities
  • Human-animal relations
  • The role of speculative fiction in crises past and present
  • Religion and spirituality in times of upheaval
  • Interdisciplinarity and collaboration
  • ‘The personal is political’
  • People, power, and politics: who decides what matters?

We welcome proposals from postgraduate students and ECRs (within five years of completing their PhD) for 20-minute papers or creative performances. We also welcome posters for display during the event. Proposals should include a 250-word abstract of the paper, poster, or performance you intend to present and a short biography of approx. 100 words.

Deadline: 23rd March 2020

This is a free event for speakers, presenters, and attendees. If you have any questions, please email us at or contact us on Twitter, @shsuprss, where you can also follow us for regular updates.