The Collaborative Research Centre “Dynamics of Security” (SFB/TRR 138) and the Anthropology of Peace, Conflict, and Security (APeCS) network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) are organizing the joint, interdisciplinary conference:

Peace, conflict, and security in times of existential crises:
Critical, interdisciplinary, and public engagements

21–22 March 2024, Marburg, Germany

We seem to be living in a time of crises that overlap and exacerbate each other, steering the world toward the brink of destruction. Multiplying armed conflicts, the consequences of climate change and fears of nuclear destruction, the rise of far-right ideologies and governments, economic turmoil, all these are vividly debated and give rise to a broadly shared sense that ours is an age of existential crisis. But contemporary situations of turmoil have long been on the make, and existential crises have been ongoing in many regions of the world. Thus, there is a historicity to current developments that is easy to overlook, and there are experiential registers that do not always find their way into dominant depictions of existential crisis.

The aim of our conference is threefold.

First, we aim at deconstructing dominant narratives of existential crisis by showing the historicity of today’s crises and their perceptions, and the ways in which multiple overlapping and sometimes contradictory processes have led to the current state of turmoil in the world. What do historically informed accounts of today’s environmental, social, political, and economic destruction tell us about the structural conditions that have led to crisis in different contexts, as well as about various forms of agency that have emerged as influential in the process? What does a comparison of articulations of crisis from the ‘Global North’ and the ‘Global South’ reveal about how processes and perceptions of turmoil differ in different contexts? Which theoretical frameworks allow best for maximally inclusive epistemologies, crucially including decolonial perspectives, that afford a complex and nuanced understanding of the current world in turmoil? How do different dimensions such as the law, authority and power, and knowledge articulate in processes that both shape and name crises as such?

Second, we aim at strengthening interdisciplinary understandings of existential crisis that are grounded in solid empirical and historical examinations. How can different disciplines enrich each other’s conceptual apparatuses, methodological toolboxes, and theoretical articulations through a collective exchange that highlights potentialities for interdisciplinary collaboration? What can emerge from the combination of anthropology’s attentive eye to lived experiences and methodological preference for long-term ethnographic engagement with the conceptual malleability of critical security studies, the interdisciplinary richness of peace and conflict studies, and the historicization of perceptions of and responses to existential crises?

Third, we aim at enhancing the academy’s possibilities of engaging critically with the broader public regarding the articulation of responses to burning issues that occupy the public space of debate in our times of crises. What can empirically informed examples of collective action in the face of multiple crises tell us about other ways of being in the world that could offer (at least partial) responses to the pauperization, segregation, exclusion, and extermination of large swathes of the world’s population? What enables and shapes different collective responses to the contemporary crises, from nationalist and nativist movements seeking redefinitions of collectivity to environmental movements such as Extinction Rebellion, from mutual aid groups to communities of preppers, from peace activism to militarizing groups of civilians seeking the protection of particular territories?

PDF programme (dowload and/or print out)

The organizers

Since April 2014, researchers at the universities of Marburg and Giessen as well as the Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe have devoted themselves to the issue “Dynamics of security. Forms of securitization from a historical perspective” in the DFG Collaborative Research Centre SFB/TRR 138. They investigate how perceptions of security changed throughout history and were involved in political processes. In doing so, the SFB takes research approaches from political science, specifically the model of securitization of the Copenhagen School of International Relations, and develops these further from a historical perspective.

APeCS (the Anthropology of Peace, Conflict and Security) is the newly created research network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, born in 2022 from the merger between the Anthropology of Security and the Peace and Conflict Studies in Anthropology networks. The network's mission is to promote the anthropological perspective and ethnographic research on issues related to security and peace & conflict among anthropologists working in Europe.

The European Association of Social Anthropologists is a professional association open to all social anthropologists in Europe. It is a learned society founded in 1989 that seeks to advance anthropological scholarship in Europe.