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Workshop "Environmental Narratives: Narrating Crisis - Imaging Disaster - Envisaging Future"

Jul 08, 2023 - Jul 09, 2023

This workshop will explore the role of narratives of environmental crises and catastrophes both in the past and in the present. It sets out from the assumption that narratives shape the perception as well as the experience of crises. They can condition whether an event is even perceived as a crisis in the first place (by, for example, rallying a certain group behind a shared narrative). At the same time, narratives may shape later responses to “critical events.” Narratives can magnify a sense of rupture that accompanies a (supposed) crisis and thereby contribute to the epoch-making nature of crises. Our workshop defines narrative broadly so as to include different source types, texts and cultural products such as music, film, literature but also climate data or statistics. During the workshop, we will practice reading-in-conjunction letting each other in on our particular disciplinary approaches and uses of different source types in order to stimulate thinking out of each of our own disciplinary/regional/methodological boxes.

The workshop brings together Worldmaking project members, China experts, fellows and graduate students from Munich and Heidelberg, as well as scholars from many parts of the world. Its aim is to foster a dialogue across disciplines and continents. Read the report


Day 1, July 8


Welcome and Introduction to the Workshop

Hans van Ess & Christof Mauch (on behalf on the LMU, RCC)

Barbara Mittler (on behalf of the Heidelberg Worldmaking project)

Environmental Crisis Narratives and Tropes of Emplotment

14:30 - 15:45

Keynote & Discussion

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Donald Worster (RCC, Renmin Daxue Beijing)

Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes: Telling the Story of Environmental Disaster

Chair: Prof. Dr. Christof Mauch (RCC, LMU)

16:15 - 17:30

Reading-in-Conjunction Panel 1—Envisaging (Liveable) Futures: the Rhetorics of Projection

Chair: Prof. Dr. Barbara Mittler (Heidelberg, WORLDMAKING)

Prof. Dr. Ying Jamie Wang (WORLDMAKING, Hong Kong)

In the Shadow of Future: Narrating a City of Many Worlds

Karen Hudlet Vázquez (RCC Landhaus, Clark University)

Non-human Animals and Disasters

Prof. Dr. Iris Borowy (RCC, University of Shanghai)

Waste as Seen in Intergovernmental Organizations: Watching a Crisis Unfold

17:45 - 19:30


Scientific Climate Narratives Past and Present—China in a Global Context: A Roundtable Discussion

Chair: Prof. Dr. Hans van Ess (LMU, WORLDMAKING)


Prof. Dr. Zheng Jingyun (CAS Beijing)

Climate Records from the Historical Books and Local Gazettes in China

Dr. Elena Xoplaki (Gießen)

Simulating Palaeoclimate over China during the Common Era

Prof. Dr. Hao Zhixin (CAS Beijing)

Rain and Snow records (Yu-Xue-Fen-Cun) in the Qing Dynasty


Prof. Dr. Julia Pongratz (LMU)

Day 2, July 9

9:00 - 10:15


Reading-in-Conjunction Panel 2—Mediating Environmental Crisis: the Case of China

Chair: Prof. Dr. Weihong Bao (Berkeley, LMU)

Prof. Dr. Francesca Tarocco (RCC, Ca’ Foscari)

Environmental Crisis Narratives in China

Dr. Maxime Decaudin (WORLDMAKING, Singapur)

Narrating Hong Kong’s First Environmental Crisis: The Two Typhoons of 21 and 26 July 1841

Bowen Gu (RCC Landhaus, ICTA-UAB, Autonomous University of Barcelona)

Environmental Crises in China: Artistic Narratives

10:15 - 11:30


Reading-in-Conjunction Panel 3—Rethinking Environment: Social Crises as Epochal Events

Chair: Prof. Dr. Gregg Mitman (RCC, University of Wisconsin–Madison)

Dr. Aanuoluwapo F. Sunday (RCC Landhaus, AAUA)

Maternal Health and Environmental Crisis in Nigeria

Nicky Rehnberg (RCC Landhaus, UCSB)

Environmental Racism as Crisis

Prof. Dr. Han Ziqiang (WORLDMAKING, Shandong)

Narratives of Accountabilities after Disasters: a Comparison of the 2021 Floods in China and Germany

11:45 - 13:00


Reading-in-Conjunction Panel 4—Re-Making/Mapping Environment from the Margins: Narrating Seas and Coastal Lands

Chair: Prof. Dr. Thomas Lekan (RCC-Fulbright Senior Scholar, University of South Carolina)

Prof. Dr. Hou Shen (WORLDMAKING, Peking University)

From Marginal Land to Coastal City: Four Maps and Tsingtao's Colonial Experience

Dr. Paolo Gruppuso (RCC Landhaus)

Marginal to whom? A Counter-hegemonic Perspective on Coastal Marshlands in the Mediterranean

Lijuan Klassen (RCC)

On the Impossibility and Necessity of Representing Planetary Health: Saodat Ismailova’s film 'Aral: Fishing in an Invisible Sea'

13:00 - 13:30

Reflexions and Outlook

Hans van Ess, Christof Mauch, Barbara Mittler