RGS-IBG 2020 Call for papers: Speculative Thinking

Organizers:  Nina Williams (UNSW Canberra, nina.williams@adfa.edu.au) and Thomas Keating (UNSW Canberra, thomas.patrick.keating@gmail.com))


Writing about the environmental, political, and financial catastrophes that define the first part of the C21st, philosophers Didier Debaise and Isabelle Stengers (2017) call for a new ‘speculative’ mode of thought capable of responding to a crisis of “lazy thinking”, “false problems” and a rising “inability to think that what we care about might have a future”. Today, destruction at different registers of the mental, social and environmental ecology demonstrate all too clearly that these crises of thought continue apace.

Against this backdrop, speculative thinking would be a call to develop a sense of openness – in the most expanded terms possible – to “what, in this situation, might be of importance” (Debaise & Stengers, 2017). Against convention, speculative thinking here would not be a call to think more ‘abstractly’ but would be an open question of how to take care of the alternative as the sense of possibility within a given situation.

This focus on speculation (see Woodward, 2016) comes at a time when Geography is developing exciting work into alternative and imperceptible registers of experience and ontology through notions of the elemental (McCormack, 2018), the pluriverse (Collard et al., 2015), encounter (Wilson, 2017), technological sense (Gabrys, 2019), post-humanism (Williams et al., 2019), post-phenomenology (Ash & Simpson, 2019), minor theory (Katz, 2017), and the micro-political (Sharpe, 2019). Parallel to this, a range of speculative interventions in philosophy and the social sciences offer different understandings of spacetimes and temporality beyond traditionally linear and successive modalities (Connolly, 2019; Savransky et al 2017).

In this session we are drawn to speculation as a response to the crisis of possibilities in an era of increasingly destructive governance and ecological degradation. Specifically, we are concerned with the speculative techniques and methods current environmental problems give rise to, the histories that shape and constitute a speculative perspective, and the technologies required to do speculatively thinking at a time when new questions are being asked about earthly collapse (Danowski & De Castro, 2017) and the “shifts in metaphysical assumptions” (Connolly, 2019, p.10) implied therein. We invite contributions that seek to engage in speculative modes of thinking, sensing and writing about the ecological world. These contributions may be interested in, but would not be limited to, the following:

  • Methods and (anti-)techniques for sensing and attuning to speculative forms of experience and ecological process;
  • Engagement with technologies and media for creating an expanded sensing, listening, perceiving, and attuning to the earth;
  • The role of speculative thought in the creation, contestation, and transgression of borders and borderlands;
  • The politics of speculation as a response to specific kinds of ecological problems e.g. the climate emergency, austerity politics, or the rise right-wing populisms;
  • Critical engagements with speculative philosophies, geographies and the question of abstraction;
  • Anti-, De- and Post-Colonial engagements with speculation and the question of who gets to speculate;
  • Conceptual work to speculate with creative processes at non-representational and micropolitical registers of thought;
  • Speculative geographical accounts of landscape, the future, digital space, and temporality.


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