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ANR funded project


Environmental Changes and their Categories of Analysis

Environmental Changes and their Categories of Analysis

This project seeks to question the categories that inform our perceptions of environmental changes as dynamics that file continuities and discontinuities between men and their environment. The key objective of the project is to move beyond the dualism between environmental change and social and cultural change, as such dualism informs western ontologies, through an understanding of how this dualism has been produced and how it can be reshuffled. To put it another way, how are such categories produced by humans, negotiating and fighting with human and non-human actors around the way this environment should be understood and possessed? This defines their notion of political and cultural community, within a context of moving environmental and economic constraints.

The originality of the consortium lies in the association of different disciplinary research communities, which have already a genuine expertise and maturity on environmental issues, in order to develop an inter-disciplinary approach, but also – and most of all – shape a common space that does not exist yet and will produce lasting effects on the organization of research. No research project funded under the programme “CEP&S” then “SOC&ENV” has yet gathered historians, philosophers, political scientists, agro-ecologist and specialists of American studies in an inter-disciplinary research structure (the Observatory of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, host of the project), able to initiate a dialogue with specialists of environmental and climatic changes from natural sciences.

The method of analysis of the historical and philosophical foundations of the concept of nature is four-pronged: First, which are the ethical and philosophical categories that structure the relationship between man and nature? The originality of the question, which lies on a wide body of literature, is a proposal to unleash the dualism between nature and culture, exploring pairs of tensions such a nature/artifice, or savage/domestic. Second, how are such categories incarnated in cultural forms that are specific to different societies? The originality here lies in a comparison between schemes of arrangement that are historically situated between humans and non-humans, from three different schemes that are close to each other because they are westerners, but yet firmly unlike each other: the wilderness (US), the terra nullius (Australia), and the landscape (France). Third, how do these categories translate into forms of government and how are they tested by extreme events in a contact of environmental changes? Sovereignty here is addressed from the hypothesis of a biotic right that leads to a re-foundation of the cosmopolitics of nature. This hypothesis of political theory will be tested from the most extreme kind of environmental change: the natural disaster, understood as a laboratory, a dream/nightmare for the government of nature, and government at large. Fourth, what is the capacity of researchers to invent and explore new modes of expressing themselves, thus contributing to the construction of more sustainable communities, beyond the borders of academic research? The moving exhibition (in the footsteps of the exhibition ‘Native Land. Stop Eject’ of the Fondation Cartier), the digital writing of history (the programme Narrativesofchange, UVSQ-UNESCO-MEDDE) and the gallery of natural history (the National Museum of Canberra, the Australian Museum of Sydney and the Natural History Museum of Lille) will be mobilized in this cluster.

The final output of NATCAT will be a contribution to the opening of new perspectives to make nature our home, from philosophical categories that can be mobilized by communities whose sense of place, renewed by the integration of environmental issues, will make them more able to face upcoming challenges.


CHCSC / OVSQ Centre d'Histoire Culturelle des Sociétés contemporaines / Observatoire de Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

LabTop - U-Paris8 Laboratoire Théories du Politique

PHICO - U-Paris1 Philosophies Contemporaines

ANR grant: 255 832 euros
Beginning and duration: janvier 2014 - 42 mois



Project ID: ANR-13-SENV-0004

Project coordinator:
Monsieur Gregory QUENET (Centre d'Histoire Culturelle des Sociétés contemporaines / Observatoire de Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines)


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The project coordinator is the author of this abstract and is therefore responsible for the content of the summary. The ANR disclaims all responsibility in connection with its content.