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.

This post is also available in Swedish

What is the challenge?

Humanities research, redefined and based firmly on the real world, is needed. It must cover nature 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) scaremongering — negative or even apocalyptic statements about environmental issues; and 4) categorising skills relating to the environment as separate and treating environmental issues in isolation from key intersectional ones like globalisation, justice, ethnicity, local culture, gender, physicality 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 interdisciplinary skills in culture, society, nature and environmental research.

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, a guest researcher programme, a postdoctoral exchange programme and a preschool.

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 other stakeholders. 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 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.