Introducing OSEH Professor II: Michelle Bastian
Oslo School of Environmental Humanities is excited to welcome Michelle Bastian as a Professor II! She is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities at Edinburgh College of Art, the University of Edinburgh, and a leading figure in the field of environmental humanities, with a particular focus on philosophical questions around time, ecology and belonging. We are looking forward to working with Michelle from 2022 to 2024 on a diversity of projects.
I feel that I have already had a close relationship with the University of Oslo, having visited a number of times as part of the Lifetimes project led by Professor Helge Jordheim, and for previous OSEH organised events. I’m very pleased to now be able to join officially and to have dedicated time to contribute to the School and develop links with colleagues in IFIKK and across the university.
I am a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, based in the Edinburgh School of Art. I am an interdisciplinary scholar, with a background in continental philosophy. My work fits at the intersection of environmental humanities and what has been called ‘critical time studies’. This means that I am interested in the political and social aspects of time, so, less on the flow of time across past, present and future, and more on how our ideas of time organise and arrange our world. Key questions for me are who benefits from these arrangements, who loses out, and what are the possibilities for imagining them otherwise.
One important avenue for exploring this at the moment is my work on the philosophy and design of clocks and clock time. With Larissa Pschetz, an interaction designer at the University of Edinburgh, I am part of an approach we call Temporal Design, which aims to highlight the way that time is designed and can be redesigned. We are interested in how we can call attention to the varied ways we work with time in everyday life, and inspire new experiments with different kinds of speculative clocks and non-clock timekeepers that could attune us to different rhythms and processes. This is a particular issue in the context of climate breakdown, given that the inability of dominant social forms to coordinate with the pace and widespread nature of environmental changes has been seen as one key barrier to a successful transition to a low carbon world.
A new research project that I am also undertaking is one funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation, and will build new interdisciplinary connections with the field of phenology. Phenology as the study of recurring lifecycle states in plants and animals has been recognised as crucial to predicting and monitoring climate change by the IPCC, but has not yet made its way into environmental humanities work. I’m particularly interested in how phenology can help us understand the ways that living beings use time to coordinate with the world around them and how they shift their timings as the climate heats up. This field offers an important opportunity to think through relational time from an ecological perspective and to explore time as a vector of adaptation in a dramatically changing world.
Some of my initial activities involve a number of online events. Participants are very welcome to the online Timely Methods for Novel Times! workshop in February which will address the question: ‘we need different times, but do we have the methods to unfold them?’ This workshop will use an ‘open space’ facilitation method, which avoids formal presentations in favour of self-organised conversations amongst participants. It is a part of my interest in methods of convening events and experimenting with formats outside of the standard academic conference, and builds on extensive work with the Temporal Belongings Network. There is also the ongoing online seminar series Phenomenal Time: perceiving ecological time.
In 2022, I am planning a further event on field philosophy and look forward to participating in a number of teaching activities including the OSEH Summer School. Do get in touch if any of these research projects overlap with your interests.
There is more about these and other projects at https://www.michellebastian.net/.