Imagining Common Grounds. New World(s) in the Making?

International Conference

Participation to this conference was by invitation. A few concept notes about underlying questions and intentions of this conference are shared in the following.

Roundtable 1: What can be shared? What should be shared?

The notion of the common ground is central to responding to the contemporary crises of modernity and creating inclusive, sustainable, and just alternatives. This roundtable asks the fundamental question of how common ground(s) can be conceptualized. Living together with Others as well as taking action together for change require common ground(s). Can there be commonly held concerns which can increase capacity for collective action and solidarity building? Can our relationship to Others and to Nature be re-defined? What encounters exist in creating inclusive communities and protecting the climate? In so far as the common ground is relevant to transformation, it is nevertheless heterogeneous, messy, and conflicted. Hence, the following questions are also equally crucial: What kind of unequal positions cut across the common ground? How is the common ground contested? The conversation at this roundtable invites theoretical interventions, cases and examples, and personal reflections.

Roundtable 2: What can be done? What should be done?
This roundtable will focus on how, in the face of current global ‘crises’ we can work collectively towards a different future. It will also ask not only what is possible in the realms of activism, academia and art but also whether there are limits on what should be collected and shared. We would ask you to reflect on your own projects and experience in thinking about these questions and to maybe make use of some of the following questions to guide you. We would also be keen to hear more about your work as part of your responses. Where do the intersections between art, activism and academia lie? What is at stake when we look to find common grounds? How have your views changed with regards to the current ‘crises’ we face, if so how? In particular have they changed with regards to
what should and can be done? Have your views changed with regards to how you do the work you do over time, if so how? When it comes to forming collaborations and finding common ground, what is possible, is it preferable, and if so how can we achieve it?

Roundtable 3: What comes next?
Roundtable 3 will continue the conversations on what can be shared and what can be done by asking what comes next. We aim at reflecting on how we can imagine different (just, equitable, sustainable) futures even in view of a current situation that seems to have very few anchors for hope in stock. Going further, how can we not only imagine different futures but also the potential paths towards them, for example via prefigurative politics? How can we navigate between choosing a lesser evil and aiming for profound change? How much compromise with structures and the status quo is acceptable or even necessary? And how can we avoid a retreat into the private even in the midst of everyday routines which, for many, are dominated by precarious working conditions, care responsibilities and other constraints? This roundtable is open for both general arguments about opportunities for political change and personal experiences.


Workshop 1: Generating Knowledge

This workshop will give us the opportunity to share our experiences with ethical, methodological, practical and many others questions of generating knowledge. When we try to gain knowledge about something as academic insights or out of human interest - we need to pay attention to many things. We want to make sure to include many voices  and pay attention to fairness; we attempt to find suitable methods, approaches or research strategies to get to the core of a matter; beyond the established and often narrowly defined repertoire of methodology, we can come up with new and creative ways of generating knowledge. At the same time, we also need to find ways to make enquiries without risking our safety and the safety of others; more even, we sometimes need to decide to leave things in the dark. The broader question what knowledge actually refers to, of course, always needs to be addressed, too. The goal of this session is to explore different ways of knowledge production that might inspire us to try new ways and pay attention to forms of knowledge that we may have hitherto ignored or with which we have not been familiar.

Workshop 2: Communicating knowledge
This workshop will allow for a discussion of different ways to communicate knowledge in a variety of settings such as universities, in public, in the form of non-traditional publications and many more. Teaching is one central way of disseminating academic but also other forms of knowledge, and the ongoing challenge is to find adequate and even new ways to convey but also produce knowledge as a joint enterprise. As another challenge and important task is the translation of knowledge to different societal spheres, particularly because we often need to re-define our own roles. In this session, we will talk about insights and hopes about how to communicate knowledge. We will focus on both best practices and experiences of failure in order to find inspiration for ways in which we can communicate knowledge.

Picture Credit (event list)

Drawing by an aboriginal woman. Video still from: Matri Linear B---Surfacing Earth, video research-project by Angela Melitopulos (2023).