Call for papers

NESS Workshop: Soils as sites of emergency and transformation 

Workshop chairs:
• Anna Krzywoszynska, The University of Sheffield ( 
• Daniel Münster, Oslo University (
• Janna Holmstedt, National Historical Museums, Sweden (

Please send abstracts in using this link:

Background and urgency

The Covid-19 pandemic is seen by some as the latest warning against the intensity of intervention of human worlds into non-human processes and spaces. This latest emergency unfolds, however, against the background of the long and accelerating process of human-induced, global planetary and ecosystem change variously debated as the Anthropocene, the Capitalocene, or the Plantationcene. 

The most lasting, the most fundamental, and the least address aspect of this ‘slow emergency’ and ongoing transformation relates to soils. When (rarely) discussed in the public sphere, soils are framed as an object of concern, and their degrading state is seen as a cause for alarm (as exemplified e.g. by the creation of the EU Mission for Soil Health and Food). In the Nordic context, soil emergencies are particularly noticeable as global heating-related changes in soil functions and states are having sudden and profound effects on lives, livelihoods, and land-use and inhabitation futures. 

Such emergency framings which underpin policy and expert concern around soil change can, however, lack historical and ontological reflexivity around the desired human-soil relations. Beyond this emergency framing, soils are also a site of and a source of transformation. Both historically and today, soils are active participants in the making of human societies and of ecologies. Whereas loss of soils has been linked with societal collapse, reciprocal relations of care can transform societies and ecosystems. Moreover, in contemporary thinking in political and social theory (e.g. Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth, Donna Haraway’s thinking on composting), arts (e.g. the Humus economicus project), and in debates about sustainable farming (e.g. regenerative agriculture), relations with soils are a source of inspiration for new models of human-environmental interaction and for conceptualising more-than-human health. This new wave of ‘thinking with soils’ works across disciplinary boundaries to reconceptualise people, environments, and their interactions by acknowledging and interrogating human entanglement with soils. 

Invitation: ‘a thinking with soils workshop’

We invite you to spend time together thinking through and getting to grips with our soil past, presents and futures in the context of the Nordic Environmental Social Science Conference (NESS) 7-9th June 2022 ( Covid-19 permitting, we will hold this workshop in person.

The NESS format allows us to spend concentrated time in a small group of 12-15, meeting in half-day sessions over three consecutive days. While the final format of our workshop depends on who responds to this call, we broadly envisage spending time in a structured manner discussing and workshopping one another’s ideas, and jointly discovering new directions of thought and forms of engagement. We envisage concluding the workshop by collaboratively building ‘a toolbox’ of ideas and practices for making the case for soils as societal actors. 

As a workshop contributor, you are asked to share with others in the workshop group a paper (complete or in draft), a photo-essay, a movie (with accompanying essay), or a website (with accompanying essay) which you would like others to engage with. In the workshop, we will ask you to present this contribution very briefly, and to participate in a shared discussion on themes relating to the contribution. We will also ask you to read or view at least two other contributions and engage with them deeply in the workshop.

We ask you to share with us an abstract by 15th December 2021, and a full contribution (which can be a draft or working paper) by 20th May 2022. If you would like to participate but struggle with the short deadline for abstracts please get in touch!

Please send abstracts of 150-200 words in using this link:

We broadly invite contributors to engage with the emergent thought on human-soil relations through the framing of emergency and transformation. This may include reflecting on the following questions, and related issues:

• What are new, meaningful and interesting ways for thinking through current and past socio-ecological emergencies in relation to human-soil linkages?

• How do soils or particular relations with soils contribute to the creation of emergencies, and how do they participate in transformations? 

• How can we transform current thinking about socio-ecological transformations by thinking with soils? What conceptual, affective, and ethical modes arise from soil engagements? 

• What forms of methodological and experimental practice can help us transform our thinking, or those of specific groups? What are emergent methodologies for a social science and humanities engagement with soils?

• How are relations with soils and land drawn on and transformed in response to ecological and social emergencies, including economic and health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic?

We invite empirical and theoretical papers related to the theme, as well as artistic commentaries and interventions. 

Further information from NESS conference organisers:

The NESS workshops follow a standing session format (similar to ECPR), which allows for substantive discussions on research in progress.  The conference invites scholars from multiple disciplinary backgrounds in environmental social science.  The overall objective of the workshop is to facilitate and encourage participation, equality and collaboration between younger and more established scholars.  Each paper is expected to relate to the theme of the workshop, and the participant submits and presents a paper (or work in progress) for the discussion.  Workshop participants will be asked to comment on at least one other paper in the respective workshop and participate in the general discussion of the other papers presented.  Participants should only choose and attend one workshop for the duration of the conference.  The ambition with this format is that the workshops allow for in-depth and coherent discussions of the respective themes and provide opportunity for potential joint publications or other continuing collaborations between the participants.