Dilemmas of Development: Geopolitical Disruptions, Social-Ecological Transformation and the Planetary Turn


October 10-11, 2024, Augsburg



Call for Paper

The current conditions, which are also referred to as “multiple crises” (Brand 2009), “end times” (Žižek 2011) or “catastrophic times” (Stengers 2015), are leading to uncertainty and fears for the future worldwide. A wide variety of dilemmas generally promote concern about securing individual futures, but also lead to self-centeredness and egoism in both the states of the Global North and the Global South. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has led to geopolitical upheavals that are questioning
universal demands for sustainable development in favour of new bloc-building tendencies. Debates about the required social-ecological transformation are increasingly ideological and raise the question of what kind of “development” is still conceivable against the background of climate change. And finally, from a scientific-philosophical perspective, the question arises as to whether promising climate adaptation strategies do not require a fundamentally new understanding of the “planetary” that attempts to overcome anthropocentrism and wants to make room for a focus on more than human time horizons.
At this year’s meeting of the Geographical Working Group on Development Theories (GAE) we want to debate on the central dilemmas that arise for Geographical Development Research in the context of current dynamics. We would like to discuss the following topics in parallel working groups:


Working Group 1: Development and Geopolitical Disruptions


Globally, geopolitical weights are shifting towards a multipolar world order (Stuenkel 2016): the rise of China and the expansion of its sphere of influence, the relative loss of power of the “West” and the crisis of the liberal-democratic model, Russia’s imperialist policies, multiple geopolitical repositioning, new alliances (e.g. the BRICS+) and the move away from a rules-based world order are just a few examples. This is often accompanied by intensive courting of the countries of the Global South and in- creasing competition for spheres of influence. Given these processes, we ask what significance these power shifts have for development prospects in the Global South. What alternative development ap- proaches and goals accompany a multipolar world order? What does the apparent end of the West's political, economic, moral and discursive hegemony mean for the Global South (Forough et al. 2023)? Are the “old” development goals (especially in the sense of catch-up development) also the current or future ones? To what extent do alternative development paths offer emancipatory potential in the Global South? And does the Global South (still) exist in a multipolar world (Haug et al. 2021)?


Working Group 2: Dilemmas and ambivalences of social-ecological transformation


In this working group, we want to raise the fundamental question of what type of “development” in the context of the global environmental crisis and the transgression of several planetary boundaries (Folke et al. 2021; Richardson et al. 2023; Steffen et al. 2015) for whom and where is still possible (Fanning et al. 2022). How does global change (in the Earth system, but also geopolitically, technologically and economically) affect development opportunities in the Global South? What does this imply for the Global North? What dilemmas and ambivalences arise when implementing the necessary socially and ecologically just transformation (Raworth 2012)? Does the promise of “sustainable development” still hold in this context (Randers et al. 2018; Randers et al. 2019), and what “development” is meant and possible? What is the role of environmental and climate justice, intra-ecological conflicts, post-colonial perspectives, systemic-structural aspects, as well as power and wealth asymmetries on different scales? What solutions exist to resolve or defuse these dilemmas and ambivalences?


Working Group 3: Development and the Planetary Turn


In contrast to globalisation, the “planetary” calls for a way of thinking that is not anthropocentric and thus also considers more-than-human temporalities and interdependencies (Chakrabarty 2021; Nigel & Bronislaw 2020; Latour 2018; Schroer 2022). Being a subject no longer means acting autonomously, but sharing agency with other subjects who have partially forfeited or even lost their autonomy (Mbembe 2019). However, the still hegemonic idea of “modernisation” has so far regarded more-than-
human entities as lifeless and passive, as resources “ready-to-use”. This ontological reduction of materiality is to be dissolved under the heading of the planetary. In this working group, we would like to explore the question of what the planetary means for geographical development theory. To what extent does planetary thinking change our understanding of “being human in the world”? What contribution can such a way of thinking make to overcoming ecological and social injustices? How can societies be “reterrestrialised” in the sense of Bruno Latour (2017)?

The meeting of the Geographical Working Group on Development Theories (GAE) will take place on October 10-11, 2024 (all day) at the University of Augsburg. In addition to keynotes and individual lectures, we particularly want to use the time for joint exchanges in the three thematic working groups outlined above. Conference languages will be German and English. We will circulate further details about the program as well as a reader with relevant literature in the run-up to the conference.

We are looking forward to numerous registrations and insightful discussions.

Andreas Benz, Markus Keck, Sebastian Purwins, Matthias Schmidt, Niklas Völkening


You can download the Call for Paper here




As soon as the program is completed, it will be published here.


Please register by 31.07.2024 by e-mail to gae2024@geo.uni-augsburg.de to attend the GAE meeting. You will receive further information by e-mail after your registration.

Literature / Conference reader

We will soon be publishing a reader with relevant literature to help you prepare for the conference.

Locations / Maps

Conference venue
Zentrum für Klimaresilienz - ZfK
Universität Augsburg
Universitätsstraße 12

86159 Augsburg



Research associate
Human Geography and Transition Research
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  • Room 2032 (Building B)
Chairholder Urban Climate Resilience
Urbane Klimaresilienz
  • Phone: +49 821 598 - 4841
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  • Room 2205 (Building I)
Research assistant
Urbane Klimaresilienz
  • Phone: +49 821 598 3925
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  • Room 1204 (Building I)
Head of Chair
Human Geography and Transition Research
  • Phone: +49 821 598 - 2268
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  • Room 2036 (Building B)
Research assistant
Human Geography and Transition Research
  • Phone: +49 (0)821 598 2763
  • Email:
  • Room 2038 (Building B)