The goal of this SNSF Sinergia project is to research the way twentieth and twenty-first century cultural products respond to the ethical demands the ecological crisis places on our society and how this manifests in the formats that mediate these demands. Examples of these cultural mediations are part of a growing consciousness about the image politics of climate change and the role of cultural sustainability or examined according to the principles of contemporary eco-aesthetics and new documentary ecologies. We take the notion of an “ecological imperative” of cultural products—an ethical stance toward human resource management built upon Kantian terms—as a starting point. Engaging with ecological and environmental themes, the humanities have already produced a multifaceted discourse. This SNSF Sinergia project builds on these rich research results and propels the state of the art by exploring the mediation of ethical demands engrained in images, literary texts and eco-ekphrases, expanded artforms, and practices of social engagement. We ask how specific formats in cultural production work intermedially to engender the ecological imperative. Our corpus differentiates between specific formats and modes from across the disciplines of image studies, literary studies, art history, and social anthropology. Our objects of study are examples of cultural products’ potential to inspire human beings to take action and to acknowledge the demands of an ecological imperative. Due to our common expertise, the geographical focus is on the Americas.
Our research approach brings together researchers from four distinct disciplines. By jointly developing methods and analyzing case studies, we adhere to an interdisciplinary agenda that allows us to understand how complex twentieth and twenty-first century cultural production mediates the urgent ecological imperative of our time. The close collaboration of word and image specialists will establish an analytical framework for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research in the environmental humanities by conceptualizing four modes of mediation: 1) modes of display, 2) modes of materiality, 3) modes of temporality, and 4) modes of spatialization.
Our scholarship engages with the ways in which cultural production, cultural practices, and cultural forms constitute and manifest the nexus between the aesthetic, the economic, the political, and the ethical in relation to the environmental crisis. Combining our core competences, we will both rely on tried and true methodologies—including those of political iconography, intermediality and ekphrasis studies, the analysis of artificial environments in the artworld, and studies of co-creative filmmaking practices—and develop new approaches through our shared analyses.
The team assembled for this project is based primarily at the University of Bern, with one subproject at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).