Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies


29 April 2024
16:00 - 17:30
Alex Brenninkmeijerzaal; Johanna Hudiggebouw, Achter Sint Pieter 200, Utrecht University, Utrecht

Rethinking the Margins Series of the Fair Transitions Platform with IOS: Staging Ecocide

Speaker: Dr. Susanne Knittel
Discussant: Dr. Luísa Netto

Ecocide raises fundamental questions regarding the way we think about guilt, liability and the duty of care. How do we determine who is responsible and how do we hold them to account? How do we acknowledge human and non-human victims? What is the power of a legal concept such as ecocide? In addition to the theoretical and legal challenges, ecocide also presents a fundamental representational challenge: how do we make ecocide visible and understandable to a broader public? What role can the cultural arena play and how can artists, writers, and filmmakers raise public awareness about ecocide? 
Conceptualizing ecocide calls for an approach that cuts across academic disciplines. This project brings together researchers from across the university and stakeholders and organizations beyond the university, whose work touches on any aspect of the problem of ecocide and its legal, ecological, scientific, political, sociocultural, criminological, philosophical, and historical dimensions.

“The question of ecocide is not just a legal or political problem, but it is also a problem of the imagination. What kinds of stories need to be told, what kinds of justice are we seeking, and what are the spaces (legal, political, cultural) where such justice can happen?” – Susanne Knittel

In this talk, Susanne Knittel will present the Pathways to Sustainability Signature Project Conceptualizing Ecocide. She will focus on the cultural and performative dimension: one part of the project revolves around the potential of mock trials and performances that experiment with artistic forms of representation and alternative conceptions of justice and testimony that can account for the human and non-human victims of ecological violence, the interconnections between different histories of violence, and their long-term and cross-generational legacies. The project team is currently developing a public performative mock trial themselves, in collaboration with the Stop Ecocide foundation and IUCN, as well as scriptwriter and theater director Reinier Noordzij.

Susanne C. Knittel is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at UU. Her research centres on the question of how societies remember atrocities — specifically how they deal with the uncomfortable issues of guilt and responsibility — and what role literature, art, film, and other cultural representations play in this process. Her current research explores the contemporary cultural imagination of genocide and ecocide: how can art and culture can help reveal the historical and structural links between violence against humans and violence against the environment that usually remain unseen. In June her ERC-funded project entitled Ecologies of Violence: Crimes against Nature in the Contemporary Cultural Imagination will kick off.

Luísa Netto is Assistant Professor at the Department of Constitutional and Administrative Law at Leiden University. Luísa comes from Brazil, where she worked for more than 20 years as a State Attorney for the State of Minas Gerais. Luísa’s research interests are related to the role of fundamental rights and the ongoing need to investigate the evolutionary potential of fundamental rights. She is committed to deepening her research into new rights and reinterpretations of existing rights to meet pressing social and environmental challenges.

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