A one-day conference at Goldsmiths
hosted by the Political Economy Research Centre
and the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity

Wednesday 26th June 2019

Confirmed keynotes:
Prof. Louise Amoore
(Durham University)
Prof. Geoff Mann
(Simon Fraser University)

Deadline for abstracts: Friday 29th March 2019

Email abstracts of 250 words max. to: Nick Taylor (n.taylor@gold.ac.uk)

This conference aims to explore from a multidisciplinary perspective the role of risk and uncertainty in the Anthropocene. It invites papers that explore the specific logics, strategies, forms of knowledge and technologies that different actors are, or should be, using to approach risk and uncertainty.

The scale and timing of existing and potential impacts of environmental degradation in the Anthropocene appear to belie our efforts to interpret and manage them. Yet ‘risk management’ remains the dominant mode of representing and governing catastrophic environmental change, with the pretension of ‘taming uncertainty’. Managed as risk, environmental breakdown and catastrophe can be approached in accounting and investment terms: they can be rendered ‘investable’, and conducive to market opportunity and framings such as ‘natural capital’.

This ‘new era’ of environmental breakdown challenges established forms of expertise and authority and tasks us with thinking about new approaches to politics and political economy. Embracing radical uncertainty permits us to consider multiple, alternative futures, opening up for discussion political and economic settlements seemingly out of reach. But given the timescales for responding to threats such as the climate crisis, what kind of politics or political economy does fast approaching existential risk provoke? Suggestions for ‘war mobilisation’ analogies in fighting climate change or ideas about engineering the planet might give some indication.

In facing the need for transformative and systemic change, it is also necessary to question who will bear the risks and uncertainties of the Anthropocene. How will risk and the costs of mitigation be distributed over time and space? Where will it be situated – locally, at the urban level, globally – and what consequences does this have for different disciplinary approaches? Papers are welcomed that address the intersection of, on the one hand, technical questions of optimality and economic efficiency and, on the other, normative questions of justice, sustainability and equality.  

Questions for discussion (not limited to):

  • How and with what tools and expertise are Anthropocene futures being calculated and managed as risks, including by the financial and insurance sectors?
  • How should political theory for the Anthropocene conceptualise risk and uncertainty?
  • What should we understand as existential or civilizational risk, and how are actors in different sectors of society and the economy responding to it?
  • What is the established political system’s response to risk and uncertainty in the Anthropocene (e.g. financial regulation)?
  • How are techniques of futures, forecasting and foresight being employed to help represent and govern uncertainty?
  • What timescales are being employed in governing and accounting for the future?
  • What risks and political threats are posed by exceptional political responses, including geo-engineering and forms of quasi-military ‘mobilisation’?

Expressions of interest or questions are welcome at any time, please email Nick Taylor (n.taylor@gold.ac.uk). Abstracts of 250 words maximum should be sent to the same address by 29th March 2019.