The Seed Box: An Environmental Humanities Collaboratory

In a world where the effects of climate change are increasingly evident, nature can no longer be regarded as separate from culture. We are in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, characterised by comprehensive human impact on Earth and its geological development.

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What is the challenge?

Humanities research, redefined and based firmly on the real world, is needed. It must cover ideas related to human and ecological contexts, social distinctions and ethics, creative relationships and political identity processes. Integrated and multifaceted approaches are required that can respond to changes as rapidly as the world that is studied.

The challenge comprises four overall problems: 1) Distancing, depoliticisation and a sense of powerlessness in face of the big environmental issues. 2) Seeing environmental matters as problems to be dealt with mainly by experts. 3) A Predominantly negative and even apocalyptic framing of environmental discourse. 4) Categorising knowledge relating to the environment as separate and treating environmental issues in isolation from key intersectional ones like globalisation, justice, ethnicity, local culture, gender, emboditment and a world that belongs to us all.

How can the programme contribute to a solution?

The Seed Box: An Environmental Humanities Collaboratory offers an up-to-date, interdisciplinary approach to environmental humanities that sets out to respond to problems by:

  • thinking through, analysing and studying the environment without adopting a stance above or outside it
  • problematising dominant narratives about the environment through criticism, creativity, a fairness perspective and other forms of approach that integrate diversity
  • building bridges among disciplines, interdisciplinary studies, social communities and differing narratives of the environment and nature.

The programme is based on established research in environmental humanities and intersectional gender research, and also on innovative forms of critical and creative ‘posthumanities’. The Seed Box is thus unique in the way in which the programme can tackle the challenges we face, by applying transdisciplinary research at the intersection of culture, society, technology and nature. During it’s second phase (April 2020- March 2022) The Seed Box will increase it’s focus with transdisciplinary artistic practice, as well as collaborations with partners in the Global South.

The consortium consists of six Swedish and seven international universities with established initiatives in environmentally oriented humanities. Their purpose in joining this form of collaboration, the Environmental Humanities Collaboratory, is to put Swedish environmental humanities on the map with an international profile. Participants in the Seed Box have an extensive joint project portfolio, an event- and  guest researcher programme and a postdoctoral programme.

Who will benefit from the results?

One purpose of the programme is to contribute knowledge of relevance to several target groups. An overarching idea is to strengthen collaboration across boundaries, for example between universities and arts institutions. A further aim is, on a broad front, to help intensify the committed public’s sense of involvement by bringing environmental issues, which are often formulated in abstract terms, closer to everyday life.

Another hope is to help vitalise politics by clarifying the close connections between more-than-human environmental issues and many other central political questions about future options. The programme also seeks to spread impulses for various organised activities that, on a non-profit or professional basis, develop new ways of meeting green challenges through new forms of cooperation — social, political and economic.