Organizing for apocalypse
Organizers: Sine Nørholm Just, Sara Dahlman, Erik Mygind du Plessis & Emil Husted
If the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that societal institutions that appear both immutable and indestructible, such as the right to peaceful assembly or the professional handshake, may come tumbling down surprisingly fast. Adding a pandemic to the escalating number of earth-shattering crises, then, has created general public awareness of what was already the lived experience of the millions who bear the consequences of crises of climate, finance, migration, and social justice: How should we, as individuals and collectives, respond to extreme weather events, growing economic inequality and societal polarization, and other consequences of the crises? What happens if the laws and customs of contemporary society cannot offer adequate answers and, indeed, cease to function? What might we do if critical infrastructures (e.g., power grids, medical supplies, supermarkets) erode? What if the state cannot guarantee our safety and protect us from disaster? While these questions have long been everyday matters of survival in many parts of the world, they are new to the Western context. The heightened awareness of immanent disaster has fueled awareness of and recruitment to an otherwise marginalized movement of self-described ‘survivalists’ or ‘preppers’ (Smith & Thomas, 2021). And, more broadly, a sense of impending and inevitable apocalypse has moved from the margins into the mainstream of political publics and social imaginaries.
Invoking the apocalypse may take many different forms. On the numerous online forums dedicated to survivalist tactics natural disasters (earthquake, volcano eruption, flooding, etc.), man-made disasters (nuclear fission, chemical attack, leftwing rebellion, etc.), and supernatural disasters (alien invasion, zombie attack, reptilian humanoid mutiny, etc.) are among the commonly cited. More broadly, apocalyptic imaginaries continue to be driven by the four horsemen of pestilence, war, famine, and death (Galbraith, 2021). Whatever the preferred cause, the envisioned consequence is that the world as we know it is about to come to an end. For survivalists, accepting the inevitable leaves one with nothing to do but prepare for all imaginable eventualities of the unknown and unknowable future state. Imagining the end of the world, however, is not necessarily an exercise in futility. Indeed, thinking with apocalypse may invite alternative figurations, serving as a call for anticipatory rather than preparatory action (Anderson, 2010). Movements of deep ecology, degrowth, and social justice are but broad labels for specific forms of present organizing for different futures.
The emergence of multiple modes of apocalyptic organizing (Bounds, 2020) entices further exploration. Asking what forms apocalypse takes in the eschatologies of the present, raises a number of more specific questions and concerns, which includes but are not limited to:
- The political character of apocalyptic organizing
- Prepping and other forms of apocalyptic organizing as activism, protest movement, or social movement
- The collective and individual components of organized/organizing disaster
- The implications of organizing for dystopic futures
- The role of digital media for organizing dystopian imaginaries
- The affective and/or material dimensions of immanent disaster
- The mainstreaming of prepping and other apocalyptic rationalities through traditional and social media
- Feminist perspectives on the end of the world
- The norms and values of apocalyptic organizing
These questions – and the many more, which we hope they might inspire – are at the heart of a seminar, organized jointly by ephemera and the research project AlterEcos – Exploring Alternatives to Currently Dominant forms of Economic Organizing. The seminar marks the conclusion of AlterEcos, which has centered on alternatives that may bring about societal change from within existing social orders. The theme of organizing for apocalypse both encapsulates our growing pessimism as to the potential of such alternatives and signals hope that current cataclysms may inspire new modes of reform and repair. If we can envision the end of the world, maybe we can also think of new ways of piecing it together, of rescuing what is salvageable and worth saving? Thus, we might reposition apocalypse as a beginning rather than an end of thought and action.
The seminar will take place at Copenhagen Business School on the 8th-9th of December, 2021. Attendance does not require manuscript submission. However, in order to make a presentation during the seminar, participants should submit an abstract (max 250 words). We also welcome alternative presentations such as poems, plays, or visualizations. Please get in touch with the organizers if you are interested in delivering a presentation that deviates from the traditional seminar format. Early next year, we will circulate a call for papers for a special issue of ephemera on apocalyptic organizing, and we envision the seminar as a platform for cultivating submissions to the issue. Although we hope that most participants will join us in Copenhagen, it will also be possible to attend the seminar online. Attendance is free and snacks will be provided (transportation costs are not covered). The seminar will include a keynote presentation by Larisa Jaserevic, an independent scholar and Wenner-Gren Fejos Fellow. It will also include a panel discussion with contributions by Frida Hastrup (University of Copenhagen), Esben Bjerregaard Nielsen (Aarhus University), Morten Thanning Vendelø (Copenhagen Business School), Rasmus Johnsen (Copenhagen Business School), and Sine Nørholm Just (Roskilde University). The seminar is followed by a free social event somewhere in Copenhagen.
Deadline for submission of abstracts/registration: October 24, 2021
All contributions should be submitted via email to the organizers: Sara Dahlman (firstname.lastname@example.org), Erik Mygind du Plessis (email@example.com) Sine Nørholm Just (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Emil Husted (email@example.com).
Anderson, B. (2010) ‘Preemption, precaution, preparedness: Anticipatory action and future geographies’, Progress in Human Geography, 34: 777-798.
Bounds, A. M. (2020) Bracing for the apocalypse: An ethnographic study of New York’s prepper culture. London: Routledge.
Galbraith, J. K. (2021) ‘The political economy of the apocalypse’, Emancipations, 1: 1-13.
Smith, N. and S. J. Thomas (2021) 'Doomsday prepping during the COVID- 19 pandemic', Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 1-15.