Jointly sponsored by the German Socialisms and Environmental Studies and GSA Interdisciplinary Networks
In the past decade, the natural environment has come to occupy a central place in scholarship in multiple registers and in multiple disciplines. This has been especially true in the fields of American history and studies, as well as German history and studies. In fact, there has been a growing transatlantic connection between German and American studies through the bridge of environmental studies, with the newly inaugurated Rachel Carson Center in Munich acting as a key site of this exchange.
Recent important works have contributed specifically to our knowledge of the natural environment in the German Democratic Republic. Such works have sought to problematize the all-too-easy critique of state socialism as having degraded and polluted the natural environment as possibly its worst sin, and explored socialist nature in more nuanced grains and broader contexts. Recent works in the field of urban history have moved towards urban ecology, or ecologies, many inspired by Neil Smith, such as the work of Jens Lachmund, Matthew Gandy, Dorothee Brantz, and Bettina Stoetzer, combining an investigation of the city as a ecological space with both a critique of capitalism as well as a history of socialist Germany. Scholars such as Katharina Gerstenberger, Axel Goodbody and Sabine Wilke have also turned to East German fiction dealing with nature as refuge or site of catastrophe—epitomized by the contrasting pair of Christa Wolf’s Störfall and Sommerstück—to investigate the range of representational frameworks (feminist, regional, global, individualist, productivist, etc) for portraying the relationship of East Germans to nature.
At the same time, however, a new field of Eco-Marxism / Eco-socialism, or “Red-Green,” thought has been emerging, represented by the work of André Gorz, Murray Bookchin, Paul Burkett, John Bellamy Foster, Nancy Fraser, Ariel Salleh, Jason Moore, and others. Whereas before, Marx and socialism seemed inherently as in opposition to the environment, new trends since the end of the Cold War have focused on rethinking a critique of capitalism partially through its insatiable desire for and exploitation of resources. Even Marx himself has undergone a remarkable re-evaluation in this vein!
It is far from clear how to interpret this recent remarkable confluence—nature, capitalism, critical theory, socialism, Germany, the transatlantic context. In a way, these threads combine to form their own “ecology.” The German Socialisms and Environmental Studies GSA Interdisciplinary Networks therefore seek paper proposals that enter that ecology from any number of points, including:
- histories of nature and the environment under German state socialism
- views of nature in the German socialist imaginary, both before and after 1949
- interactions between green and left-wing politics in Germany
- new theoretical avenues of “red-green” thought, eco-feminism, or reinterpretations of Marx
- “ecologies” as a concepts, including ecologies of humans, plants and socialisms
- third world solidarity and notions of foreign ecologies during the GDR
The GERMAN SOCIALISMS NETWORK is a vehicle for connecting the diversity of current scholarship on the GDR with a broader academic base that explores the impact and meanings of Socialism in all of its manifestations, from its beginnings in the 19th century to the present. Encouraging both speculative and empirical methodologies, the Network seeks to bring together scholars operating in all fields and time periods for a productive exchange that questions the world in which we live and the political machinations that created it.
The Environmental Studies Network, founded in 2012, is an interdisciplinary effort within the German Studies Association to promote eco-critical approaches to environmental issues through literary, historical, sociological, visual, and cultural perspectives. Scholars within the Environmental Studies Network are keenly interested in examining how these areas of study, which include political and philosophical questions drawn from deep ecology, eco-feminism, environmental justice, “new materialism,” and the Anthropocene, might inform our understanding of German culture and society. The German Studies Environmental Studies Network also welcomes debate and dialogue with the natural sciences and policy studies. Indeed, it is also our goal to show that environmental problems are always already cultural and scientific, ethical and technological.