Call for Papers

HannahArendt.net

Call for Papers: Nature and Politics

The way in which human societies interact with nature is currently becoming a key political issue. Anthropogenic climate change, the destruction of ecosystems, the unbridled ravage of natural resources – these are now central issues of political negotiation and conflict. This raises a number of questions for political thought. For a long time in the history of Western political thought, nature and politics were considered opposites and served to maintain social inequalities in terms of class, gender, and race. Today, it is important to overcome this dualism and to understand nature as a political concept. We find approaches to this notably at the margins of the Western history of ideas and beyond: in the cosmologies of non-Western societies as well as, for example, in Alexander von Humboldt.

For this issue of HannahArendt.net, we are looking for elements of a political thought that does not conceptualize nature as something outside the political – with Hannah Arendt and beyond Hannah Arendt. 

Arendt's work has no clear concept of nature. Her understanding of nature oscillates between the traditional concept of nature that objectifies it as physis and contrasts it with man-made history and culture and a variety of reflections on a more entangled relationship between politics and nature, history and nature, on identity and human conditionality, which on the surface fail to reveal a clearly definable concept of nature. On the one hand, Arendt sees physical nature as forming the basis of human life on earth. She understands humans as earth-bound and thus "conditioned" beings who are at the same time "not absolutely bound to nature" (Vita activa 1981, p. 8). The space of freedom that Arendt determines is not infinite, however, but can only exist if the limits set by nature are respected. As these few highlights show, the concept of nature is central to Arendt's political ideas. That said, it is also one of the darkest and most difficult concepts in her work. In many cases, Arendt seems to transgress the traditional dichotomy of nature and culture, and introduce a third (e.g., world, understanding, judging). 

For this issue of HannahArendt.net, we are looking for reflections, essays, and exercises in political thought that attempt to frame how we can think of nature politically, starting from, in contact with, or in tension with Arendt's thought. Links, for example, to current debates on the Anthropocene, the Covid-19 pandemic, contemporary protest movements, or sustainable (environmental) politics and ecological issues are encouraged, as is taking up theoretical and philosophical positions that address the traditional contrasting of nature and culture and of matter and life. The guiding question is: How can we think and articulate a politics of nature that allows for a non-destructive approach to nature and, at the same time, introduces into politics the limitation of action so vital to preserving a stable and liveable human world?

Before submitting texts, we ask that abstracts of up to 500 words be sent by March 15, and contributions then by the end of June 2021.