The Tangled Bank: Ecological Metaphors in Contemporary Theory

Contemporary theory abounds with ecological forms. Mountains, moraines, monsoons, forests, stones, bodies of water, cats, electrons, sweetgrass and so many other nonhuman beings prove good to think with—and not only about environmental matters themselves.

The digital sphere has been theorized extensively through metaphors of cloud and rhizome. Trees and their modes of communication offers models for rethinking mutual aid among and beyond the human. Fungi reshape phenomenology and the mind itself. Icebergs, dead whales and FIRE (a highly combustible acronym assembling Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) color the theory of finance, and capitalism cannot be discussed apart from ecological notions of growth, equilibrium, competition and crisis.

The ‘state of nature’ is one of political philosophy’s founding fictions. Ecological metaphors shape other domains of discourse and are shaped by them. Taken together, they comprise an ecosystem of entities and processes, one which bears little resemblance to any natural or cultivated landscape. In the last paragraph of "On the Origin of Species" Charles Darwin paints a compelling picture (in words) of biodiversity as a product of natural selection rather than divine creation, an image whose grandeur is meant to compensate for the shattering theological implications of his scientific worldview.

Today we must query the tendency to naturalize theories of the social, digital, economic and so forth through the embrace, perhaps even fetishization, of ecological forms.

Therefore, this conference invites contributions from diverse areas of the humanities to consider contemporary theory’s tangled bank.


13:00 - 13:05 Opening Remarks, Frederik Tygstrup
13:05 - 13:45

Roundtable I: The Tangled Bank of Theory and Practice

  • Dehlia Hannah
  • Ida Bencke
  • Line Marie Thorsen, Center for Applied Ecological thinking (CApE)
13:45 - 15:15

Paper Presentations:
Moderated by Devika Sharma

  • All too Human: Not Ecological Enough, Ulrik Ekman
  • Culture, Isak Winkel Holm
  • Stonier, Stefanie Heine & Lilian Munk Rösing
  • Thinking in the Dark, Mikkel Bogh
15:15 - 15:45 Coffee break
15:45 - 16:45

Roundtable II: Lightning Talks
Moderated by Mikkel Bolt

  • Image Ecology, Frederik Tygstrup
  • Compost, Solveig Gade
  • Tidal Wave, Kasper Opstrup
  • Infrathin, Anders Michelsen
  • Sensology, Holger Schulze
  • Iceberg, Eva la Cour
  • At Sea, Michael Kjer
  • Ecology, Mikkel Krause Frantzen
16:45 Event Horizon – Collective Afterthoughts
Moderated by Dehlia Hannah