Constitutionalizing in the Anthropocene

Workshop Invitation: Laws and Times in ‘Anthropocene Environments’

25 May 2023

Tilburg, the Netherlands

Interdisciplinary Conversations across Sites, Practices and Encounters 

The unfolding climate crisis requires legal, cultural and practical responses across a range of sites, practices and encounters. Environmental managers, for instance, are asked to ‘future-proof’ their forest stands; intelligent technologies and data systems are mobilised to track and forecast greenhouse gas emissions; urban planners work to anticipate heat waves and precipitation levels; and jurists consider the shape and reach of legal forms under ‘Anthropocene’ conditions. These examples evidence how the climate crisis creates what we speculatively propose to call ‘Anthropocene environments’ – dense knottings of social, ecological, (non-)urban, digital, infrastructural, political and other dimensions. In confrontation with the ‘Anthropocene’, such environments are being reconfigured, while they in turn reconfigure conceptions of human responsibility and positionality. 

The often-evoked ‘rights of future generations’ are but one occasion of the mutual implications of laws and times. Legalities and temporalities proliferate in specific Anthropocene environments: when ‘managing’ ecosystems (forests and wetlands, for instance) or designing infrastructures (such as energy systems and other elements of the built environment), practitioners have to contend with institutional temporalities of ‘projectness’ (Law and Singleton 2000), (inter-)national legislation and the temporalities of ecosystems, species, social and material settings and climate impacts. Meanwhile, in virtual spaces, global data environments are designed to keep a record of past emissions, measure what is happening in the present and project into the future to guide political and legal climate responses (Mai and Elsässer 2022). 

These examples raise questions about how multiple legalities and temporalities work through and work out in Anthropocene environments. Specifically, how do laws and times co- constitute, produce and shape Anthropocene environments? And what, in turn, happens to laws and times themselves when participating in these environments? While generally assumed to be monolithic, abstract and enduring guarantees of social, environmental and other types of orderings, laws and times are multiple – continuously enacted in different ways (van Oorschot 2021). Thinking through the realities of the ‘Anthropocene’, then, we might wonder not only how legalities and temporalities are formative of Anthropocene environments, but also how ‘law’ itself may require rethinking (Mai 2022) to juggle multiple temporalities and navigate changing climatic conditions. 

Our aim, in this workshop, is to provide a space for interdisciplinary conversations. The intention is to create a forum for collectively reflecting on the co-constitutive relations between laws and times in climate crisis. Mobilising the notion of ‘Anthropocene environments’, we want to resist the lure of abstract generalization and promises of objectivity, instead focusing on ‘situated knowledges’ (Haraway 1986) and lived experiences (Escobar 2008) as they are playing out across concrete sites, practices and encounters. 

We welcome scholars from across disciplines in all career-phases, with a particular focus on early- and mid-career researchers. Specifically, we invite empirically informed contributions which: 

Explore, on the basis of specific case studies or field research, how multiple legalities and temporalities are done and known across Anthropocene environments; in particular how such legalities and temporalities participate in the production of specific sites, practices and encounters, how they depend on each other, and how they continuously work through and work out in these environments; 

Conceptualise legalities and temporalities across Anthropocene environments such that we can begin to develop a more nuanced understanding of laws and times and incorporate legal and temporal multiplicities more routinely in our thinking about the production of Anthropocene environments, and

Reflect on the implications of Anthropocene multiplicities for both legal and social scientific approaches to the ‘Anthropocene’, including in terms of disciplinary theoretical foundations, conceptual repertoires and methodological approaches.

Programme and Format

The workshop will take place on 25 May 2023 in Tilburg, the Netherlands. It will be opened with a keynote by Dr Julia Dehm (La Trobe University). To facilitate meaningful exchange, the workshop will be organised around structured peer feedback sessions inspired by the IGLP approach. We invite short exposés of up to 1500 words that start with a particular observation, problematic or question. Each exposé will be discussed for around 30 minutes, beginning with a short introduction by the author. This will be followed by a peer presentation that will identify the intervention and raise further questions about what the exposé can tell us about laws and times in Anthropocene environments. The peer feedback will be followed by a group discussion and final reactions by the author.

By closely engaging with the work of fellow participants and giving each other the space to slow down and think together, the workshop is designed to offer the starting point for building an interdisciplinary network of scholars whose work enquires how laws and times make and unmake ‘Anthropocene environments’. As a collective, we might also wish to explore possibilities for publishing our empirical and conceptual work together. We are able to offer a fixed travel and accommodation stipend of up to 250 euros for those outside of the Netherlands and Belgium, within Europe, and without institutional funding. These stipends will be allocated based on needs. For further information about the stipend or any other question regarding the workshop, please contact Laura Mai [email protected] or Irene van Oorschot [email protected] .


Escobar, A (2008), Territories of Difference: Place, Movements, Life, Redes (Duke University Press) Haraway, D (1986), ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of
Partial Perspective’ 14(3) Feminist Studies 565-599
Law J and V Singleton (2000), ‘Technology’s Stories: On Social Constructivism, Performance, and
Performativity’ 41(4) Technology and Culture 765-775
Mai, L (2022), ‘The “Question of Possibilities” as a Leitmotif for Re-imagining Law for the
“Anthropocene”’ 13(3) Global Policy 49-59
Mai, L and Elsässer, JP (2022), ‘Orchestrating Global Climate Governance Through Data: The UNFCCC Secretariat and the Global Climate Action Platform’ 22(4) Global Environmental Politics 151-172
van Oorschot, I (2021), The Law Multiple: Judgment and Knowledge in Practice (Cambridge University Press)