Workshop report “Doing Environments: Social Studies of the Techno-Managerial Enactment of Natures”

Workshop report “Doing Environments: Social Studies of the Techno-Managerial Enactment of Natures”

We position the workshop “Doing Environment” amongst current developments in STS towards engaging with practices of and in environmental management, including a workshop on situated practices  in environmental management held at Bielefeld University in 2012 and streams at the EASST/4S 2012 Conference like “environmental infrastructures” or “configuring climates”. Supporting this trajectory and making it more accessible for scholars in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, we invited contributions that analyse techno-managerial practices that help to (re)configure environments as “managed” or “governed”. With this we raised questions of how environmental natures are materially and discursively practised in various locations (laboratories, offices, landscapes, consultations). Furthermore, we used this workshop to intensify the relationship between STS and political ecology scholars. Eleven participants joined from institutions in Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Poland and Singapore.

The workshop set out from a keynote by political ecologist Bram Büscher (Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands) that addressed the disconnections between national park managers’ realities from lived realities of the population in the park. Positioned more directly in the borderlands between political ecology and STS, Dean Bavington (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada) offered a virtual lecture on fishery knowledges between industrial management and small-scale fishers. Six workshop participants (Guntra Aistara, Niklas Hartmann, Franz Krause, Ingmar Lippert, Aleksandra Lis and Antti Silvast) shared analytical and theoretical challenges in analysing the techno-managerial enactment of natures by means of Pecha Kucha presentations (each lasting 6-10 minutes). We, the Environment, Management and Society Research Group, shared an update on their approach to studies of environmental management, suggesting that environmental management can be generatively analysed as sets of situated practices that enact simultaneously political and material assemblages. The workshop’s format left ample time for discussion of individual contributions as well as cross-cutting questions.

Two major themes, among others, emerged from the lively discussions sparked by the problem-focused Pecha Kucha presentations, as well as by the more in-depth lectures and the debate of the theoretical approach proposed by the Research Group. First, discussion centred on the multiple temporal dimensions of environmental management, including those of market cycles and investment amortisation, forest regrowth, election periods, and human lives, as well as the various pasts, presents and futures invoked in the process. Second and related, participants discussed environmental management’s virtuality and performativity in relation to political effects, clarifying that present management is often directed at a particular future, and that successful performance of that future make it real already in the here and now.

The organisers are grateful for financial support from EASST and Tallinn University’s Uuringufond for covering workshop expenses. 

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