Critical Uninhabitations

Workshop at the University of Rostock, 23-25 June 2022

The world we inhabit comprises networked and entangled habitations, to which access is continually regulated. Not all spaces are equally accessible by all beings; some spaces are actively rendered uninhabitable through military, state, multi-national agricultural, technological, and other (infrastructural) intrusions; others through longer, and more disparate, processes of environmental destruction. Other spaces are regarded uninhabitable, by occupying forces for instance, or are (erroneously) classified as uninhabited. The ways we make sense of our habitations include practices of habits and through (exclusionary) structures of habitus.

This workshop brought together scholars at different career stages whose work broaches such topics from a variety of (trans)disciplinary angles, and includes post- and decolonial, feminist, queer, ecocritical, humanimal, multi-species, race critical, and other considerations in their methodologies.

This workshop was organised around various ‘uninhabitations’. The term is awkward and cumbersome, and invites critique. It is hoped to be understood as a difficult yet capacious way of thinking about how spaces, practices, and movements (amongst other things) are rendered uninhabitable, or un-habituatable. A series of sites marked with ‘x’s, like treasure maps, helped to bring together the contributions:

  • extinctions (including critical questionings of species, also comprising languages and other things that can ‘go’ extinct or are ‘made’ extinct)
  • exclusions (including spatial regimes of control; exodus)
  • experiments (unique in-habitations, also because there needs to be a space for the utopian, even in this workshop)
  • extinguishings (‘putting out fires’, both literally and metaphorically)
  • excavations (historical approaches to uninhabitations, or the becomings of uninhabitability, (media) archeologies; exhumations)
  • extractions (and extractivisms)
  • exhaustions (wearing out, wearing down, wearing through; ways of weathering)
  • exigencies (what is needed going forward)

Whilst the initial idea was to meet in January 2022, due to the Corona-virus epidemic and the specific ways it rendered in-person meetings difficult, the workshop finally took place in late June, 2022.


Thursday, 23 June, 2022

We started the workshop with a zoom keynote by Kate Brown (MIT). The format of online lectures allowed for external expertise, without the extractivist expenses of long-distance plane travel. Kate Brown’s talk, entitled “From Nuclear Colonialism to Nuclear Terrorism: The long history of nuclear energy in Russia and Ukraine”, drew on her work in the Chernobyl region. She looked to various contingencies of the production of nuclear energy and the Chernobyl disaster—not as a discrete moment on a timeline, but as an ongoing disaster that extends beyond 1986 to the current moment. Brown drew on her work in archives, on oral histories, as well as site visits, stressing the long durations in all manner of organic matter of exposure to radiation and the ways in which radiation defies national, geographical, bodily, and other boundaries.


Friday, 24 June, 2022

The remaining sessions emphasised discussion, as workshop presenters had circulated preliminary material in advance of the meeting. The Friday workshop included contributions addressing sites such as Cyprus, the museum, protest camps, permaculture gardens and broaching themes such as nuclear energy and migration. The group went on an excursion to the site of the Heinkel factory: Once factory, a site of labour, and sub-concentration camp during the Third Reich, it is now an overgrown plot awaiting housing development. The monument has been excavated.

Some members of the workshop took advantage of the proximity to the Baltic Sea for a dip in the ocean.


Saturday, 25 June, 2022

On Saturday, presentations turned to modes of exploration (Google Earth’s virtual dives), depictions of repro-time in film, and the imagined exigencies of climate change fiction. A slot for emerging projects allowed for thinking with bees and depictions of asexuality.



Presenters: Gigi Adair (Bielefeld), Madeline Becker (Rostock), Emily Bereskin (Cottbus), Hanne Bolze (Rostock), Kylie Crane (Rostock), Ariane de Waal (Halle), Annabell Fender (Potsdam), Baldeep Kaur Grewal (Potsdam), Sumugan Sivanesan (Berlin), Anja Schwarz (Potsdam), Kristina Weber (Rostock), Andrea Zittlau (Rostock)

Moderators: Christian Schmitt-Kilb (Rostock), Holger Rossow (Rostock), Anja Schwarz (Potsdam), Elahe Haschemi Yekani (Berlin), Kylie Crane (Rostock)

Organizers: Madeline Becker and Kylie Crane (both University of Rostock)



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