The Ecology of Forms

ASCA Political Ecologies Seminar 2020-21: “The Ecology of Forms”

For registration or further information, please contact the organisers, Jeff Diamanti and Joost de Bloois (;

This year, the ASCA Political Ecologies Seminar consists of a curriculum and speaker series on “The Ecology of Forms.” Through reading groups, masterclasses, and public lectures from international scholars and artists engaged in the creative and theoretical study of ecological relation and crisis, this year’s seminar will move through distinct but overlapping forms that focalize contestation and collectivity across a multitude of vectors: economic, legal, environmental, architectural, infrastructural, cultural, and so on. Forms can include anything from a watershed, general strike, or class action lawsuit; subsea mine or natural gas pipeline; or an assembly of bodies in the thick of a morning commute. Forms put into relation on the terms of their arrangement, historicity, and materiality. Some more obviously than others. Maybe there are new forms emerging amidst the crumbling in of the present. Maybe there are some that we tend to overlook because they’re so sedimented into our experience of the world that we forget they are themselves provisional and mutable. And maybe there are forms that we want to expose for the conceit of their (abrasive) arrangements: the oil terminal, for instance, or the fossil fueled family. Furthermore, we will ask which new forms of (non-academic) writing and thinking are needed to tackle such issues. We will look into different forms of writing and visualizing possible ‘ecologies of form.’ Part of the idea is to gather theoretical concepts around situated and historically contingent forms that materialize a polis in place. But we’re also interested in exploring the animacy and nonhuman force of forms into domains of humanistic and social scientific inquiry. Graduate students and faculty from all disciplines are encouraged to attend.


September 16th @ 10am: General discussion of the annual theme and the following readings:

  1. Yve-Alain Bois, “The Use Value of ‘Formless,’” (1997)
  2. Tim Ingold, “Bringing Things to Life: Creative Entanglements in a World of Materials” (2010)
  3. Podcast “Night Wight Skies” with Elisa Iturbe on “Carbon Form” —

or “Architecture and the Death of Carbon Modernity,” Log 47 (2019)

September 30 @ 10am : (Online) screening and discussion of Technologies of the Spirit: A Conversation with Bernard Stiegler. We’ll read selected fragments by Bernard Stiegler.


October 21 @ 10am:  (Online) screening and discussion Sunset Ethnography with and about anthropologists Michael Taussig and Stephen Muecke. We’ll read selected fragments by Michael Taussig and Stephen Muecke.


November 6th: Masterclass and Public Lecture by Dolly Jørgenson on “Taxidermied Animal.”

Masterclass from 10-12am

Public Lecture from 4-6pm

**Both sessions will take place over zoom. Email organizers for link and password at least 48 hours in advance.

November 26th: Masterclass and Public Lecture by Michael Marder on “The weirdness of being in time.”

Public Lecture from 4-6pm

Abstract: In this talk, I propose to analyze various senses of being in time. My claim is that time forms a weird interiority through an embrace of whatever is “in” it. I, then, flesh out this claim through a close reading of Book IV in Aristotle’s Physics, while grafting each “measure of movement,” by which the Greek philosopher defines time, onto the movements of plants. The result is a twisting and turning, ramified, wayward temporality that holds every sense of being in time in a vegetal embrace.

Masterclass from 10-12am


  • Aristotle’s Physics Book IV, Chapters 10-12 and the chapter on time –
  • Marder, Plant-Thinking (chapter 3)

Bio: Michael Marder is IKERBASQUE Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. His writings span the fields of phenomenology, political thought, and environmental philosophy. He is the author of numerous scientific articles and fifteen monographs, including, most recently, Energy Dreams: Of Actuality (2017), Heidegger: Phenomenology, Ecology, Politics (2018), Political Categories: Thinking Beyond Concepts (2019), and Dump Philosophy: A Phenomenology of Devastation (2020). For more information, consult his website


Date TBD: Masterclass and Public Lecture by Rhys Williams on “Turning Towards the Sun: The Solarity and Singularity of New Food”

Winter Break


February 12th: Masterclass and Public Lecture by Jennifer Wenzel on “The Disposition of Nature”

Bio: Jennifer Wenzel is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature and of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. She is the author of Bulletproof: Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond (Chicago and KwaZulu-Natal, 2009). With Imre Szeman and Patricia Yaeger, she co- edited Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment (Fordham, 2017).

**Both sessions will take place over zoom. Email organizers for link and password at least 48 hours in advance .



rMA and PhD students are eligible to take this workshop for credit

BA and MA students are welcome to attend workshops (not for credit)

  • 1 EC for attendance to one session with a response paper (see below)
  • 6 EC for attendance across one term with 2 response papers and a final research paper (see below)

Tasks / Assessment (6 EC)

(1) reading compulsory readings and related literature pertaining to the topic at hand;

(2) writing a Reading Report for two of the meetings about the material read (2 x 20% = 40% of final grade); or one for 1 EC

(3) attending the sessions and engaging your views during discussions;

(4) writing a Final Paper on a chosen topic (60% of final grade) for 6 EC;

(5) present your preliminary findings prior to the final session (date/time tbc).

Reading Reports

Each participant seeking 6 EC will complete two reading reports during the tutorial, which will be graded (2 x 20% = 40% of final grade). These reading reports should be between 1000 – 1200 words in length (not including references), and should be emailed to the course instructors 24 hours before the relevant seminar (i.e. usually this is before Thursday 17:00). Please remember include your name/student number and a bibliography at the end of the text. While we expect that most students will choose one of the readings for the reading report, we expect you to show your familiarity with the other required reading for that week (i.e. citing those texts in relation to your chosen text).


A reading report is a “mini-review”. So please also orient yourself towards book reviews – see, for example, the advice given in Wendy Belcher “Writing the Academic Book Review”.

In general, a reading response should answer (most or all of) the following questions:

  • Who is the author? What is the subject matter of the book / article? What type of text is it (who is the intended audience)?
  • What are the author’s motivations/reasons for writing this book/ article (as indicated by the author himself or apparent from context)?
  • What is the structure of the book/article (how does the book present its argument)?
  • What does the book/article achieve (what do we learn that we did not know / what does an informed audience of scholars learn that the scientific community did not know)?
  • How is the book connected to the state of research on the topic (other important publications or public debates on the topic)?
  • Is it well written (does the structure make sense? Is the argument convincing? Does the author achieve an economy of presentation i.e.: Is there an overload of information, or a scarcity of information, or does the author hit the right balance?)
  • What did you personally find most interesting? Where do you agree with the author, where do you not agree? How can you apply the book/article to your own research? Did the book/article prompt you to think about the topic further – and if so, in which way?

The bulk of your response should be devoted to critically assessing the CONTENT of the chapter/article; information such as author’s biography, etc., should be clearly but BRIEFLY addressed. Additionally, do not make the bulk of your response your OPINION; rather, we would like to see evidence of your ability to critically and productively engage with the author’s posits, conclusions, or viewpoints.

Instructions for Final Paper

The final paper is a mini-paper on a self-chosen topic that should engage the themes and readings of the tutorial. The required length is 2500 – 3000 words and the deadline is Friday 17 January 2020 (before 17:00) for semester 1 credit, and May 28 (before 17:00) for semester 2 credit. Email final paper to both Drs. de Bloois and Diamanti in a single message.

We will schedule an additional meeting so that each student participant has the chance to present their paper theme/concept and receive feedback.