CfP: Climate changed (legal) geographies

by | 13 Feb 2023

Taking the Law out for a Walk in the Anthropocene Conference

What is “the Anthropocene”? Prevailing scholarship identifies it as nomenclature for time, a marker of temporality. But it could also be framed as: a place, a spatio-temporal landscape, a utopia, a dystopia, a statement of complicity, an attribution of causality, a socio-technical imaginary, a moral one, and a composite of existential & metaphysical problems on the limits of humanity. In this regard the “Anthropocene” holds a slippery quality of being everywhere at once: underpinning social reality, residing horizontal to it, looming above it, or existing diffusely in its discursive ether. How do we orient ourselves in this slippery “Anthropocene”? What does it mean to be an object before, after, within, outside, above, and below it?

How would another discursive object fare when you take it out for a walk in “the Anthropocene” — and what if that object were “Law”? Law – an object framed in paradoxical terms in recent decades: (1) on one hand, as stiff, solid, rigid, inflexible, loyal to historicity, and rife with a large degree of obsolescence, due to its inclination toward precedence, formalism, positivism, and doctrinal analysis; (2) but on the other, almost as nimble, elusive, & ether-like as the Anthropocene itself. Ether-like, meaning, something that exists alongside taste, smell, touch, and sound, operating unseen in the process (Philippopoulous-Mihalopoulos, 2016), and has the ability – should we let it – to appropriate something as mundane as our sensory and affective experiences. Ether-like in a second sense, too, as in something that exists almost omni-directionally, locating itself before, after, within, inside, outside, above, and below social reality itself (Johns, 2012).

What is the Law to you: solid or diffuse? Or neither? How do you orient its (im)materiality in “the Anthropocene”? And what happens to that form (or lack thereof) when you take it out for a walk in the Anthropocene — where climate change can intensify deep-time & accelerate extinction, rendering this very question moot? “The Anthropocene” prompts reflection on the ends of the earth (Chakrabarty, 2009; Clark and Gunaratnam, 2016; Yusoff 2013), and of the humans (Machin, 2019; Povinelli, 2017), but juxtaposed with law, it invokes the end of law too. If the Law is “solid,” does it dissolve in the Anthropocene? And if the Law is “diffuse,” does it survive in the Anthropocene?

This conference session prompts scholars to reflect and deliver an intervention on these provocations through modalities of their choosing. Options include: a 15-minute paper presentation, lightning talk, digital short, animated video, academic polemic, socio-literary intervention, or other adjacent genre. Abstract and pitch submissions are due by March 1, 2023 through this submission portal: . They could be an original response to these provocations, or existing work made to connect to the themes. Participants will be notified by March 12, 2023, and are then urged to register to the Conference’s early bird programme in June 2023.

The sessions celebrate diversity in the widest sense possible, and invite contributions from any disciplinary inclination, intersectional group, geographical spread, and intellectual positionality. This CfP is framed with a philosophical bent, but institutionalist and doctrinal interventions are very much welcome. The session organiser in keeping with the RGS-IBG’s Code of Conduct, ensures an appropriate balance of representation within the session.

This session doubles as a networking “socials” event, as participants are invited either to lunch or dinner during the Conference proper at South Kensington, and will be part of future projects and collaborations along the same themes. The socials offer a chance to mix early career researchers, as well as more senior academics, lawyers, and practitioners in the same space. Submissions also hold the likelihood of being published in forthcoming RGS publications.

Other themes and key words for reflection are:

  • legal aesthetics in the Anthropocene
  • climate injustice in the Anthropocene
  • sovereignty in the Anthropocene
  • subjecthood in the Anthropocene
  • relationality & the ethics of encounter
  • rights of nature / rights of man / human rights
  • more-than-human legalities
  • blue legalities
  • critical and postcritical law in the Anthropocene
  • law as utopia / dystopia
  • indigenous realities in the Anthropocene
  • AI & the Law in the Anthropocene
  • history & philosophy of law and nature
  • legal temporality
  • international environmental law
  • environmental humanities & the law
  • socio-legal futures

RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2023

Venue: RGS-IBG building, South Kensington, London Date: August 29 to September 1, 2023

Session organiser: Catherine D. Tan,, University of Cambridge

For questions or concerns, please reach out to Catherine Tan,, University of Cambridge.


Chakrabarty, D., (2009). The climate of history: Four theses. Critical Inquiry, 35(2), pp.197– 222.

Clark, N. & Gunaratnam, Y.,(2016). Earthing the Anthropos? From socialising the Anthropoce ne to geologizing thesocial. European Journal of Social Theory, 20(1), pp.146–163.

Johns, F. (2015). Non-legality in international law: Unruly law. Cambridge University Press. Machin, A., 2019. Agony and the Anthropos. Nature and Culture, 14(1), pp.1–16.

Povinelli, E.A., 2017. The ends of humans: Anthropocene, autonomism, antagonism, and the i llusions of our epoch. South Atlantic Quarterly, 116(2), pp.293–310.

Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, A. (2016). Flesh of the Law: Material Legal Metaphors. Journal of Law and Society43(1), 45–65.

Yusoff, K., (2013). Geologic life: Prehistory, Climate, futures in the Anthropocene. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31(5), pp.779–795.


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