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'Rethinking Crises' Forum

16 February 2024 | Distinguished Guest Lecture Series
(opens in a new window)Prof. Kieran Keohane (UCC, Department of Sociology & Criminology):
“Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization: Diagnoses and Therapies”
Date: Friday, 16th February 2024
Time: 1pm
Venue: Humanities Institute, H204

Kieran Keohane is a Professor in the Department of Sociology & Criminology at University College Cork. He teaches also in Anthropology and in Planning & Sustainable Development. He is a founder member of the Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization network, and the Society, Economy & Culture research centre, and an associate researcher with Deep Institutional Innovation for Sustainability & Human Development research group; the Radical Humanities Laboratory, and Collective Social Futures.

Past Events in this Series

(opens in a new window)John Barry is Professor of Green Political Economy, Co-Chair Belfast Climate Commission, School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen's University Belfast

The presentation focused on the role and potential of art, imagination and creativity in helping us understand and respond in positive ways to the climate and ecological crisis.  While there is a role for science and technology, there are limits to scientific-expert and technological modes of both understanding and communicating the ‘polycrisis’ now unfolding and being experienced by planet, people and places.  Is one of the reasons why we do not see enough citizen or popular pressure on governments for more urgent action on the planetary emergency the fact that it lacks a compelling ‘story’? That the dominant science-based ways we see it being communicated in the media, in politics etc. does not constitute a narrative that connects with their values, aspirations and lives?  Or is it that the narrative of ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ itself is a barrier to action? Alternatively, is ‘telling the truth’ about the state of the world, not matter how negative, both honest and liberating? Or what of the comforting (if dangerous) narrative that ‘technology will save us’? Can imaginative literature, art, poetry, plays and other forms of creative modes of expression have a role, to engage more people, to inspire more people, to mobilise more people to understand the causes, consequences and solutions to our climate and ecological emergency?  Is the difficulty responding to the planetary crisis indicative of a deeper cultural crisis?  A crisis of creativity and imagination as much as one rooted in the structure of economy and ways of life?

John Barry is a father, a recovering politician and Professor of Green Political Economy at Queens University Belfast.  He is also co-chair of the Belfast Climate Commission. 

What keeps him awake at night is the life opportunities and future wellbeing of his and other children in this age of the planetary crisis, and why it is easier for most people to believe in the end of the world than the end of capitalism and economic growth.  His areas of academic research include post-growth and heterodox political economy; the politics, policy and political economy of climate breakdown and climate resilience; socio-technical analyses of low carbon just energy and sustainability transitions; and the overlap between conflict transformation and these sustainability and energy transitions. His last book was The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability: Human Flourishing in a Climate-Changed, Carbon-Constrained World (2012, Oxford University Press).

Isabelle Stengers is the Author of 'Another Science is Possible: A Manifesto for Slow Science' (2018) & 'In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism' (2015). She is a Belgian philosopher, noted for her contribution to the philosophy of science. Stengers has authored and co-authored more than twenty-five books and two hundred articles, exploring science as a diverse and independent system that, through specific practices and processes, helps shape truths instead of rediscovering preexisting ones. In the 1970s and 1980s, she worked with Nobel Prize recipient Ilya Prigogine, with whom she wrote  La nouvelle alliance  (1979),  Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature (1984) and  The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos and the New Laws of Nature  (1997). Her book  Cosmopolitics  (2010, 2011), a sweeping critique of the role and authority of modern science in contemporary society, won the Ludwik Flek Prize in 2013. Her interests include chaos theory, the history of science, the popularization of the sciences, and the contested status of hypnosis as a legitimate form of psychotherapy. She is professor emerita of philosophy at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and her work is related to the philosophy of Deleuze, Whitehead and James, as well as to the anthropology of Latour and the SF thinking adventure of Haraway. In her book  In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism (2015), Stengers reminds us of our human responsibility of surviving without sinking into barbarism, and of resisting the threat of impotence in a time of panic.

Download the workshop poster here.

Workshop participants were encouraged to have read In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism in preparation of the workshop.
Published by Open Humanities Press in collaboration with meson press 2015. Freely available online at
(opens in a new window)I(opens in a new window)n Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism

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