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Exploring Subjectivity, Politics and the Natural Environment - A day of presentations and discussion

Starts: 6 May 2009

6 May 2009
Committee Room 1, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII

Sponsored by the Subjectivity and Psychosocial Studies Research Group

Please RSVP (for lunch) by 15 April, to

Professor Paul Hoggett, Director, Centre for Psycho-Social Studies, University of West of England
Psychic transactions with the material world
Whilst material objects, including nature, are a screen for our projections, they are also much more than this. Objects affect us, announce their presence to us, insinuate themselves upon us, call to us. It is as if they have a life of their own, more than simply the sum of the meanings we have put into them. How come they can have such power over us? This presentation will draw upon post-Kleinian psychoanalysis to explore the nature of the intercourse between the human, the quasi-human and the non-human.
Professor David Sibley, School of Geography, Faculty of Environment, University of Leeds
Imagined geographies of ‘human-animal’ relations
In this presentation, I will suggest that arguments about a ‘proper place’ for animals are affected by the ways in which both animals and places/spaces are constructed. These constructions are based on familiar, taken-for-granted, categorisations, e.g. domestic or wild. The perceived discrepancies which result from a failure of animals or places to fit into their appropriate categories can be a source of anxiety or even moral panic. I will show how this works by examining, first, the relatively simple conflict over the ‘proper place’ of brown bears in Slovenia and, second, the more complex and subtle problem of placing (or denying a place to) feral cats in an urban environment. These cases touch on the place of wild nature in a managed environment and the simultaneous feelings of attachment to and distancing from wild nature in a modern society.
Dr Bronwyn Hayward, School of Political Science and Communication, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Visiting Fellow Tyndall Climate Research Centre, University of East Anglia, and UK Visiting Researcher RESOLVE Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment
Children of the market? New Zealand children's attitudes to citizenship, and their ability to change their environment.
This paper explores the emerging political attitudes of New Zealand children who have grown up in strongly neo-liberal policy environments. As 'children of the market', young citizens frequently express a strong sense of individual responsibility for their environment and community but have had few opportunities to participate in, or even observe binding democratic action to address collective problems, including environmental change. The concept of political efficacy, described broadly as the feeling 'I can understand politics' and 'when I take action it can make a difference', has informed a great deal of research about youth participation. Low levels of efficacy amongst young people are frequently cited as justification for civic and environmental education programmes to correct an apparent 'democratic deficit' or 'lack of environmental awareness'. However the concept of political efficacy is problematic. This paper discusses the results of focus group interviews with New Zealand children aged 9-11 years from a variety of different education and social economic settings and considers the implications of their diverse attitudes to citizenship, their environment and political efficacy.
Renee Lertzman, PhD Researcher, Cardiff School of Social Sciences
The myth of apathy: Psychosocial dimensions of environmental degradation
One of the most prevailing and persistent concepts among environmentalists is that of 'public apathy'. While numerous studies have exposed a disconnect between values and practice, or what is called the ‘perception-action’ gap, little research has explored the affective and psychodynamic dimensions of why people may not act on environmental issues they care very deeply about. This paper explores the concept of environmental apathy through a psychoanalytic and psychosocial lens. Drawing on a current site-specific PhD research project based in the Great Lakes region of the United States, using in-depth psychosocial interviews, I will argue for a reconceptualisation of environmental subjectivity that allows for complexity, anxiety and contradiction. Specifically this paper presents a critique of the myth of apathy, and invites us to consider more psychically attuned, albeit complicated, notions of subjectivity in the face of chronic, industrial ecological threats.



Name:Renee Lertzman

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Open To: Staff and Students