by Sarah Schönbauer & Sven Bergmann
Although there is more and more data about plastic particles in the environment, the impact of microplastic particles on the ecosystem, wildlife and the human body is still unexplored. However, the potential effect of such particles has become a core concern in our contemporary societies, tangible in the far-reaching media coverage or in scientific conferences specifically devoted to engage with microplastics.
In one of such conferences, the Micro2018 in Lanzarote (1) Richard Thompson, professor of biological and marine sciences at the University of Plymouth and the eponym of the term microplastics, gave a keynote. He claimed that besides the unquestionably important role of the natural sciences, the social sciences too should play an important role in future research on plastic particles in the environment. He encouraged social scientists to take part in conferences such as the Micro2018, and stated that this involvement would be beneficial for the overall engagement with microplastics. While we, two scholars in the social and cultural sciences, specifically in the field of cultural anthropology and Science and Technology Studies (STS), think that this is an important claim indeed, we also think that a closer involvement needs to be specified.
Microplastics from Lanzarote © Sarah Schönbauer
Continue reading “Microplastics by other means? How microplastics can be a tool for inter/trans-disciplinary engagement”
by Cormac Walsh & Martin Döring
Sunrise on Schiermonnikoog, Dutch Wadden Sea. (Photo C. Walsh)
Proposed Panel Title: Beyond Nature and Culture: Relational perspectives on the Wadden Sea landscape
Panel Convenors: Dr. Cormac Walsh & Dr. Martin Döring (University of Hamburg)
The Wadden Sea constitutes a dynamic intertidal coastal landscape, reaching from Den Helder in the Netherlands, along the German North Sea coast to Blavands Huk in southwestern Denmark. This coastal landscape has been shaped over a period of a thousand years or more by dyke-building, land reclamation and drainage practices as well as periodic storm flood events producing a material and symbolically powerful boundary between the land and the sea. Today the intertidal landscape in front of the dykes is recognised as a unique, ecologically rich and diverse ecosystem of outstanding natural value with the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Wadden Sea landscape nevertheless remains a contested landscape imbued with regionally specific cultural values and meanings which serve to challenge the conservationist myth of the Wadden Sea as pure and pristine nature. Against this background, this panel proposes to bring together relational perspectives which seek to transcend the nature-culture divide at the Wadden Sea and offer novel ways of thinking nature and culture together.
In particular we hope to examine and critically reflect on the following aspects:
- The interrelationships between natural and cultural heritage at the Wadden Sea;
- innovative approaches to transcending the ‘hard boundary’ of nature and culture in the Wadden Sea landscape;
- cross-comparative perspectives on the cultural meanings of nature and landscape at the Dutch, German and Danish Wadden Sea coasts;
- possible Wadden Sea futures drawing on its rich history of nature-culture interactions;
- challenges of bringing together multiple ways of knowing the Wadden Sea landscape.
Please submit a title and abstract (max 300 words) to cormac.walsh(at)uni-hamburg.de and doering(at)metaphorik.de by 20th December 2018.
Suggested readings / Key References:
- Döring, M. & Ratter, B. (2018). Coastal landscapes: The relevance of researching coastscapes for managing coastal change in North Frisia. Area 50, 169-176.
- Egberts, L. (2018). Moving Beyond the Hard Boundary: Overcoming the nature-culture divide in the Dutch Wadden Sea area, Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development.
- Egberts, L. & Schroor, M. (Eds) (2018). Waddenland Outstanding: History, Landscape and Cultural Heritage of the Wadden Sea Region, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
- Krauss, W., (2005). The natural and cultural landscape heritage of Northern Friesland. Int. J. Herit. Stud. 11, 39–52.
- Reise, K., 2014. A Natural History of the Wadden Sea: Riddled by Contingencies, Wilhelmshaven Common Wadden Sea Secretariat.
- Walsh, C. (2018). Metageographies of coastal management: negotiating spaces of nature and culture at the Wadden Sea. Area 50 (2), 177-185.
- Wöbse, A.-K., (2017). Space, Place, Land and Sea: The Ecological ‘Discovery’ of the Global Wadden Sea. In: de Bont, R., Lachmund, L. (Eds.), Spatialiszing the History of Ecology: Sites, Journeys, Mappings. Routledge, London/New York, pp. 204–222.
by Cormac Walsh
The fiftieth anniversary Conference of Irish Geographers, took place at Maynooth University, (close to Dublin, in County Kildare) from 10-12thMay 2018. In response to a call for papers for a themed session with the title: Between Nature and Culture, Land and Sea: Spatial Practices at the Coast, Ruth Brennan (Centre for Environmental Humanities, Trinity College Dublin) and I convened a double session with eight paperspresented to a lively audience on the last day of the conference. We were particularly interested in papers which viewed coasts and coastlines as boundary spaces and explored ways in which natural and cultural values are contested and negotiated at the coast. With this thematic focus, the session built on recent work on cultural geographies of coastal change (e.g. Walsh & Döring 2018) and was informed by a broader concern to bring together perspectives from cultural geography and the environmental humanities.
The first paper, by Frances Rylands and colleagues from the interdisciplinary Cultural Values of Coastlines project at University College Dublin explored the concept of emotional ecologies as a means of incorporating cultural values in policy-making at the coast. Her paper addressed the question of how nature-culture relations can be narrated at the coast, working with through practices of story-telling and story-mapping. Drawing on the Lorimer’s Wildlife in the Anthropocene (2015), she spoke of the non-human charisma of seals and their role as digital personalities in the communication of particular images of nature at the coast. Her paper highlighted the importance of developing and articulating an ethic of care in relation to the marine environment and the potential role of story-telling in articulating otherwise intangible and difficult to grasp emotional responses and cultural values.
A charismatic seal, Glengarriff Bay, Ireland. Photo: (c) C. Walsh
Continue reading “Between Nature and Culture, Land and Sea: Spatial Practices at the Coast: A Conference Report”
by Cormac Walsh
The Wadden Sea constitutes an inter-tidal coastal landscape, reaching from Den Helder in the Netherlands, along the German North Sea coast to Blavands Huk in southwestern Denmark. This coastal landscape has been shaped over a period of a thousand years or more by dyke-building, land reclamation and drainage practices as well as periodic storm flood events producing a material and symbolically powerful boundary between the land and the sea. Today the inter-tidal landscape in front of the dykes is recognised as a unique, ecologically rich and diverse ecosystem of outstanding natural value with the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The status of the Wadden Sea as a natural landscape is nevertheless contested, particularly among the coastal communities for whom this coastal landscape is their home-place or Heimat (Walsh 2017).
The tidal landscape of the Wadden Sea coast has been argued to present a ‘mental provocation’, challenging the image of a clear and secure line of separation between land and sea, constitutive for modern scientific and administrative understandings of the ‘coast’ (Fischer, L. 2011). The Wadden Sea presents a challenge to this – literally – linear understanding of the coast in two senses: firstly the fluctuation and fluidity of the barrier between land and sea is prominently visible through the extensive diurnal tidal range, characteristic of this low-lying coast. Secondly, the historical record documents substantial shift in the physical location of the coastline as the consequence of catastrophic storm events, processes of erosion and sedimentation as well as practices of land reclamation. Since the construction of the first dykes in the twelfth century, the boundary between the land and the sea has been progressively pushed westward through extensive dyke-building and land reclamation (Krauß 2005). The history of the coastal landscape is also marked by catastrophic storm-flood events, which resulted in extensive loss of life, land and livelihoods. A storm-flood, recorded to have occurred on the 16th of January 1362 led to the loss of Rungholt in Northern Friesland, an important regional trading centre of time. Similarly engrained in the historical memory of the region is a storm flood event in 1634, which claimed almost 10,000 lives and the island of Strand (Quedens 2010). In Eastern Friesland, the village of Itzendorf was lost to the ‘Christmas Flood’ of 1717. In more recent times, a storm surge in February 1962 brought extensive damage along the North Sea coast and tested the existing system of dykes to their limits and beyond in a number of cases.
Map of Eastern Friesland showing the lost village of Itzendorf, northwest of the town of Norden, by Ubbo Emmius (dated 1595).
Continue reading “A Manmade Land? Cultural Meanings and Material Practices of Coastal Protection at the Wadden Sea”