Environmental Humanities at Augsburg University
The Environmental Humanities at Augsburg University are transdisciplinary in both organizational structure and methods used. They primarily rely on the following interrelated approaches which were either coined or further developed at Augsburg University:
- Cultural Ecology: This is a literary and cultural-theoretical approach that addresses the interconnection between culture and nature and analyzes the processes and products of cultural and literary creativity as transformations of this reciprocal interrelation. Fictional stories serve as a point of departure to discover new facets of the relationships that exist between humans and nature as well as the changes within the human-nature-relationship. The intrinsic cultural-ecological potential of literature and other forms of cultural expression manifests itself in critical counter-discourses and aesthetic alternative designs that pertain to an instrumental perception of nature Cultural Ecology Research Group, Literatur.
- Material Ecology: This is an approach that focuses on material-histories and investigates the relationships that exist between societies and their material and ecological environment by means of tracking certain adverse substances such as CO2, DDT, nitrogen, and so on. Circulating stories about substances that have made history are often points of origin—the dominant narratives are confronted with conflicting alternatives, nonetheless. The new knowledge and findings that emerge from this approach, are laid down in the book series “Stoffgeschichten,” edited by the Wissenschaftszentrum Umwelt.
- Political Ecology: This is a human-geographical approach which researches the connections between political processes and climate change, as well as conflicts regarding resources and the environment. We are interested in the interrelations between politics and environmental change, particularly in post-colonial or post-socialist societies. The common commitments of political ecology include the theoretical reference to Critical Social Theory and a post-positivist understanding of nature and knowledge production, a plurality of methods with a focus on qualitative empirical research methods, the consideration of the historical dimension, as well as normative commitment with the aim of bringing about social justice and structural political change by taking the interests and needs of marginalized groups of the population into account. More: here
In addition to this triad, which is extensively represented in the vast amount of interdisciplinary events and research projects, the Environmental Ethics division is also an integral part of the EH in Augsburg. Since 2010, the University of Augsburg has been offering a Master's degree program in Environmental Ethics — it is the first of its kind in Germany. Environmental Ethics is a branch of practical philosophy, and theological ethics that is closely connected to environmental law. It especially focuses on the criticism and further development of environmental standards while also analyzing the underlying conceptual ideas thereof. Environmental ethics, environmental philosophy, and the philosophy of nature are also important research areas at the Augsburg Institute of Philosophy. An unusually broad spectrum of projects in environmental history has gathered under the roof of the History Department:
Many of these projects, like History of Sustainability (funded by the Leibniz-Gesellschaft) are collaborations that also include the WZU as an important partner. Augsburg University is also one of the most vibrant European centers for discourse analysis and relies on this approach with regard to ecological narratives of climate change.
Many of our projects are relevant to practical applications. This applies in particular to research at the Augsburg Institute for Environmental Law and to the department of Communication Science. Environmental Medicine is an interdisciplinary research area at the newly founded Medical School of Augsburg University and an important collaboration partner for the WZU.
Naturally, we do not regard the research approaches on which we are focusing as exclusive. Rather, they provide a sound basis for productive connections across disciplines.