Heimat: A Foundation of German Environmental Thinking?

ASLE Biennial Conference, June 23-27, 2015, Moscow, ID

This panel will engage with the idea of home in German culture and literature. The idea of home, signified by the German term “Heimat,” serves as a foundation upon which much of environmental thinking, broadly defined, is based.

With a long tradition of sometimes problematic engagement with national identity, and situated at the geographic center of Europe and the crossroads of European culture, Germany has a long-standing preoccupation with the idea of home. While much scholarship on the Heimat concept has emphasized the term’s potential to encourage blind loyalty and eliminate rational individual thought (Bredow and Foltin 1981, Seeßlen 1993, Blickle 2002, among many others), other studies have emphasized precisely the term’s emotional value and utopian potential for excluded or oppressed groups (for example, Greverus 1979). In recent years, rapid globalization and growing anxiety about global climate change have reinvigorated and complicated existing notions of homeland, territory, and identity. In this context, Heimat has been seen as a potentially useful term for environmentalism, offering an alternative to the anthropocentrism and nature/culture dualism that plague much western environmental thought (see, for example, Rollins 1997, Cioc 1998, Lekan 2004, all building on William Cronon’s 1995 critique of the American idea of wilderness).

Within this dense cluster of intersecting and often contradictory discourses, Heimat provides a focal point for representations of environment and society in German culture. This panel will explore these cultural works as fertile ground for ecocritical analysis.    

Topics may include, but are not limited to critical engagement with the idea of Heimat, domestic environments, (un)natural habitats, the urban environment, placelessness, displacement, exile, the role of national identity and regional environment in a period of rapid globalization, and the potential (or lack thereof) for Heimat ideas to assist in transformations toward sustainability. Presentations from colleagues at all career stages (graduate students, independent scholars, junior and senior professors) will be considered and the final makeup of the panel will be diverse in this regard.

Preference will be given to presentations that interpret the ASLE Conference’s general theme, “Notes From Underground: The Depths of Environmental Arts, Culture and Justice.”

300-word abstracts are due December 1, 2014 and should address subject matter and any relevant critical apparatus. Presentations will be a maximum of 15 minutes long. Please also include a brief (100-150 word) biography of the presenter with your proposal.

Abstracts and any questions may be addressed to:

Emily E. Jones

Assistant Professor of German and Environmental Humanities

Whitman College

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