Foto: Isar source, Austria, by R. Spannring


Water Epistemologies:
Trans-cultural and trans-species knowledge, ethics and citizenship in waterscapes

June 21, 2021



The event is free of charge. There is, however, limited space of 200 participants. Participants will be selected on the principle of first come first served. Please register by Wednesday, June 16th 2021.

In the light of the Anthropocene, the epoch in which humanity affects the entire Planet and has destructive effects on ecosystems, inorganic elements, human and non-human living beings, the question of how we live in a more-than-human world and how we learn individually and collectively for a more sustainable and just future arises urgently. While there are doubtless dozens of issues in this ecological, social and ethical crisis one could take as focal point, this workshop looks at waterscapes, not only as a frame for water-related problems such as drought, pollution, the destruction of water ecosystems and the exploitation and eradication of fish and other inhabitants, but also as a community of a multitude of species (including humans) and non-organic elements. The question arises how we co-inhabit this space, what values underlie our relationship with the water and other species, who counts as citizen and what knowledge, ethics and practices might be conducive to their flourishing.

In response to the disenchantment, silencing, domination and exploitation of the world in the course of the Enlightenment, modernization, colonization and industrialization, academics, activists and artists increasingly draw on traditional and indigenous knowledge as well as on new, scientific knowledge and philosophies. They foreground multiple and multi-layered interdependencies and shared vulnerabilities of all forms of organic and inorganic life. Taking the notion of water epistemology as a metaphor for the fluidity, creativity, and relationality of (re)emerging epistemologies of thinking with and listening to the (more-than-human) Other, the contributors will share their research on knowledge, ethics, and citizenship in waterscapes with the wider interested audience. Participants will be encouraged to share their ideas, ask questions and discuss solutions with an international team of philosophers, educators, poets, scientists, as well as activists.

The seminar will be held in English. Certificates of participation can be obtained on request.



Transkulturelles und speziesübergreifendes Wissen, Ethik und Bürgerschaft in Wasserlandschaften

Im Lichte des Anthropozäns, der Epoche, in der die Menschheit den gesamten Planeten beeinflusst und zerstörerische Auswirkungen auf Ökosysteme, anorganische Elemente, menschliche und nicht-menschliche Lebewesen hat, stellt sich dringend die Frage, wie wir in einer mehr-als-menschlichen Welt leben und wie wir individuell und kollektiv für eine nachhaltigere und gerechtere Zukunft lernen. Unter dem Begriff der Wasser-Epistemologie als Metapher für die Fluidität, Kreativität und Relationalität von (neu) entstehenden Epistemologien des Denkens mit dem (mehr-als-menschlichen) Anderen, werden die Teilnehmer*innen ihre Forschungen zu Wissen, Ethik und Bürgerschaft in Wasserlandschaften mit einem breiteren interessierten Publikum teilen. Die Teilnehmer*innen werden eingeladen, ihre Ideen einzubringen, Fragen zu stellen und Lösungen mit einem internationalen Team aus Philosophie, Ökologie, Pädagogik, Literatur und Umwelt- und Tieraktivismus zu diskutieren. Der Workshop wird in englischer Sprache abgehalten. Teilnahmebestätigungen können auf Anfrage ausgestellt werden.



Vodne epistemologije:
medkulturna in čezvrstna vednost, etika in državljanstvo v vodnih pokrajinah

V luči antropocena, obdobja, v katerem človeštvo vpliva na ves planet z uničujočimi učinki na ekosisteme, anorganske elemente, človeška in ne-človeška živa bitja, se nujno postavlja vprašanje, kako živeti v svetu, ki je več kot človeški, in kako se individualno in kolektivno učiti za bolj trajnostno in pravično prihodnost. Sodelujoči s prispevki, ki pojem vodne epistemologije jemljejo kot metaforo za fluidnost, ustvarjalnost in relacionalnost (ponovno) nastajajočih epistemologij razmišljanja z (več kot človeškim) Drugim in njegovega poslušanja, bodo svoje raziskave o znanju, etiki in državljanstvu v vodnih pokrajinah delili s širšo zainteresirano javnostjo. Udeleženci bodo lahko delili svoje zamisli, postavljali vprašanja in razpravljali o rešitvah z mednarodno ekipo filozofov, pedagogov, pesnikov, znanstvenikov in tudi aktivistov. Delavnica bo potekala v angleščini. Potrdila o udeležbi bodo poslana na zahtevo.




9:00- 9:15
Welcome, opening

9:15 – 10:00
Shé Hawke
10:00 – 10:45 Teya Brooks Pribac
10:45 – 11:30 Martin Müller
11:30 – 12:15 Tomaž Grušovnik

13:30 – 14:15 Elsa Lee
14:15 – 15:00 Reingard Spannring
15:00 – 15:45 John Piccolo

15:45 – 16:30 Discussion and concluding remarks



  Shé Hawke, Australia/Slovenia

Re-wilding Waterscapes through a Renewed ‘Ecology of Mind’

The convergence of environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects matters now in ever greater ways, as we carve out a new paradigm and a more robust sustainability logic – a re-wilding of our thinking and for our purposes here today – waterscapes. This paper explores such a rewilding through a pilot project of 8 undergraduate students who undertook autoethnography in their local waterscapes in Austria, Italy and Germany, and discovered new conditions of possibility, and ideas, in the micro and macro webs of biosocial entanglement. How those entanglements of connectivity are understood and championed, and how we – as the apparent custodians of the planet – better partner with the earth system that sustains us and all life provides the impetus for radical change now towards a future we can actually have. But the ‘field and the habitus’ (Bourdieu 1980) and our human and more-than-human agency will be wildly shaken up, as we re-discover an ‘earth … inscribed in us’(Orr 2004, 212), and change our ways of being and becoming. This paper looks first to the past, then to the present, and finally imagines a future – the one we need, through a rearrangement of habits, practices and thinking through embodied research and elemental poetics.

Key words: eco-pedagogy, water literacy, poetics; autoethnography, re-wilding.

Shé Hawke, Mediterranean Institute for Environmental Studies, Science and Research Centre, Koper, Slovenia, locates water as a meeting place between the fields of environmental philosophy, cultural studies, theology, literary studies and poetry. Her paper is funded by ARRS J7-1824 Slovenia, “Surviving the Anthropocene”.


  Teya Brooks Pribac, Australia

Like water in water: normativities and rapid flows of change

Unlike humans who have traditionally been considered as complex creatures, and our complexity both a blessing and a curse, other animals have been viewed as more fluid, as being in the world like 'water in water', to borrow Georges Bataille's phrasing. This presentation begins with an auto-ethnographic exploration of our homestead and the surrounding land. After an extensive period of severe drought, we experienced mega fires that burnt throughout the summer of 2019/20, and these were then followed by a mega downpour generating floods. Millions of other-than-human animals were affected (along with many humans). We sympathised, we grieved. Nevertheless I believe that most of us underestimate the magnitude of the impact of these events (and of other more directly anthropogenic factors) because we continue to see nonhuman animals as infinitely adaptable, happily ‘flowing along’ whatever happens around them, and we fail to appreciate the importance of ontogenetic elements, including social learning, and a decent level of environmental stability for successful adaptive functioning and well-being within a lifetime. The rest of the presentation discusses these aspects from a cross-species perspective with implications for theory and practice.

Key words: Animal emotion, social learning, experiential self, environ-mental health, Australian bushfires, floods

Teya Brooks Pribac, author of Enter the Animal, is an independent scholar and multidisciplinary artist. She lives in the Australian Blue Mountains with sheep and other animals.


  Martin Müller, Norway

Thinking With Rivers. Action Research for Ecoliteracy

What could it mean to learn to think, not ‘like’, but with rivers, watersheds, water bodies? This, I propose, would seem to entail action-oriented thinking and thoughtful action. It would also seem to entail transcending enlightenment dualisms, to try and bring thinking into resonance with other expressions of life. It would perhaps mean asking, not how can our imagination fit our local niches, but how can we participate in the world’s imagination? Here I report on ongoing research oriented towards river ecology, open schooling, action competence, ecoliteracy, and the larger narrative shift from emergency to emergence.

Key words: watershed philosophy, open schooling, ecoliteracy, emergency, emergence

Martin Lee Mueller is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Teacher Education and School Research at the University of Oslo and the author of Nautilus Book Award-winning Being Salmon, Being Human. Mueller's latest publications include essays for the books Otherkind. Spirit, Science, and the Practices of Kinship, as well as for The Wonder of Water. Lived Experience, Policy, and Practice and Environmental and Animal Abuse Denial. In his work, he interweaves moral philosophy, earth systems science, indigenous perspectives, ecoliteracy and ecopoetry.


  Tomaž Grušovnik, Slovenia

The Unbreakable Glass of a Fishtank: Philosophical Reflections on Aquaristics

The presentation will focus on two different, albeit related ideas: first I want to point out that the fishtank needs an elaborate network of filters and other interconnected gadgets that provide life-support for its inhabitants, but because this technology “spoils the view” of the fish tank, it has to be removed from view – this is curiously analogous to the well-known psychoanalytic metaphor of (un)consciousness, and perhaps it is also related to potential denial of fish subjectivities in aquaristics. Secondly, I will try to invite us to think about the fishtank glass as a concept, as a structural element that enables human (aesthetic) exploitation of fish, the element that enables human ownership over them and suppresses their subjectivity.

Key words: philosophy, skepticism, animal studies, fish, aquaristics

Tomaž Grušovnik is associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Primorska, Faculty of Education. Together with Reingard Spannring and Karen Lykke Syse he edited the Environmental and Animal Abuse Denial: Averting Our Gaze (Lanham: Lexington, 2021).


  Elsa Lee, UK

Connecting Water to Global Citizenship via Education for Sustainable Development

In this session we will explore how a new materialist lens can elucidate some of the emerging findings of our study of community-based waterway regeneration projects in England and South Africa. In so doing, we will consider what role engaging with the materiality of water in waterways that are a feature of dwelling places through educational and volunteering activities might play in notions of world sensing (Connell, 2018), for example. We will talk then talk about whether ‘world sensing’ has the potential to act as a theory that can capture the ‘many sciences’ (Harding, 2018) including northern notions of global citizenship that are revealed when exploring the impact of material engagement with waterway regeneration in different cultural contexts. Does ‘world sensing’ in this regard provide a pluriversal space for capturing these different conceptualisations of being active as a citizen in a globalized world?

Key words: hydrosociology, watery ontologies, global citizenship, ESD, community-based

Elsa Lee is an academic researcher at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, and Anglia Ruskin University, working on matters connecting Education and the environment. More details can be found here: www.cw2gc.org.


  Reingard Spannring, Austria

“Living like a river in a concrete bed”: Subjectivity and nature in critical theory

In this presentation, I seek to disentangle oppressive and liberating modes of knowing in nature experience. Nature experience is sometimes regarded as the panacea of environmental education. However, it is predominantly based on cultural projections and mechanistic visions of natural phenomena that reify animals and nature through a functionalist approach. At the root of this problem lie the intertwined processes of commodification and self-commodification as the Frankfurt School has so prominently explicated. Writing in the tradition of Critical Theory more recently, Hartmut Rosa develops the Theory of Resonance, which defines resonance as a responsive relationship which requires that both sides speak with their own voice (Rosa 2019, 174). Although in capitalist society, the ability to speak with one’s voice, is corrupted by an illusory – because mechanistically and functionalistically produced – subjectivity, Rosa follows Marcuse’s and Fromm’s optimism that a ‘positive freedom’ is possible in the form of resonance. This presentation critically scrutinizes the concept of resonance against the backdrop of anthropocentrism and speciesism.

Key words: theory of resonance, subjective experience, animals, anthropocentrism, speciesism

Reingard Spannring is researcher and lecturer at the Institute for Educational Sciences, University of Innsbruck. Together with Tomaž Grušovnik and Karen Lykke Syse she edited “Environmental and Animal Abuse Denial: Averting Our Gaze” (Lanham: Lexington, 2021).


  John Piccolo, Sweden

“Only dead fish float with the current”

What are we to make of this watery world which goes unseen by most of humanity? Despite our existential dependence upon freshwater (or perhaps because of it), these ecosystems are among the most imperiled on the planet. During all my years teaching river ecology and conservation I’ve never found a more rational argument for protecting aquatic life than the simple fact that it has inherent value irregardless of its “ecosystem services” or its’ “contributions to people”. Ecocentrism not ecosystem services is my answer to the question “why should we protect rivers and streams?” In giving consideration to life on Earth, however, one soon finds contradictions – should we dam new rivers for clean hydroelectric power, or tear down dams to restore river ecosystems? Ecology may help us to discover the wonderful world underwater, but we will need all our wisdom to help us secure the future.

Key words: ecocentrism, evolution, rivers, biodiversity, ethics

John Piccolo is Professor for conservation biology, sustainability and earth stewardship at the University of Karlstad, Sweden, and editorial advisor of the Ecological Citizen. 




Reingard Spannring (University of Innsbruck, Faculty of Education) and
Tomaž Grušovnik (University of Primorska, Faculty of Education)


universitaet-innsbruck-logo-mit-schutzzone-4c           fwf_logo             logo-up-pef

      FWF Projektnummer: I 4342-G


Nach oben scrollen