Call for Abstracts: Fallows

RHN 40/2016 | Call

ilinx - Berliner Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft (2016,5)

Editors: Katja Kynast, Birgit Lettmann, Stephan Zandt

Deadline for Proposals: 23 May 2016



The fifth thematic issue of ilinx – Berliner Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft (Berlin Contributions to Cultural Studies) cultivates the indeterminate, scattered and multiform field of fallow lands. ilinx 5 addresses not only agricultural fallow lands, but also abandoned lots and reserves, wastelands and overgrown sites, rocky crags, contaminated zones, vague terrains and fragmented spots. That list of undecided sites could probably go on without end, the heterogeneity of those phenomena characterizes their ecological as well as their theoretical potential. In his “Manifeste du Tiers-paysage” (Manifesto of the Third Landscape) Gilles Clément emphasized the theoretical and biological openness of fallows. Fallows are not only zones of biological invention, but can also be perceived as mental fallow land and the cultural unconscious. We understand the concept of the fallows similarly as an open theoretical and conceptual space and we seek to comprehend that space as concretely as possible.

Beyond their potential openness, fallows are sites of dispute that can only be outlined in the diversity of its protagonists and potential uses. One (wo)man's fallow land is another's usable, habitable space.

Fallows exhibit the structure of a double bind: On the one hand, post-industrial, almost post-apocalyptic areas, marked by the waste of civilization and human contamination. On the other hand, thriving zones of potential, biotopias for pioneering plants and experimentation fields for artistic and cultural creators: Tremendum and fascinosum at the same time, in visual as well as literary representations, fallows alternate between sadness and temporariness at one end of the spectrum and dynamic spaces of flourishing life and processes of becoming at the other. Undecided in both directions, fallows mark a temporal, spatial and imaginary liminal space.

The unresolved status of fallows as no longer, not yet or simply not used space brings with it a future-oriented promise which can generate highly speculative values, and this is not restricted to economics. This makes fallows politically and economically contested fields, especially given the finitude of space and the multiplicity of possible appropriations, usages and updates. But what are fallows as a specific phenomenon, apart from their eventual de-fallowing and planned re-cultivation?

ilnix 5 attempts a definition, a theorization of fallows that releases them from their boundaries, from their instrumentality, in order to strengthen their possibilities and actualities. To that end, the publication aims to link fallows culture-theoretically and culture-historically to other zones that are not institutionally cultivated. It wishes to bring together concepts and phenomena that are scattered both physically and across disciplines, connect the wild growth around bollards (Helmut Höge) to ruins (Hartmut Böhme) and overgrown lots, so as to ask how they are related ecologically, aesthetically and theoretically.

Against that backdrop, we wish to address fallows that are for the large part still unworked, whether from a historical or current, cultural, ecological, theoretical or aesthetic point of view. We are considering in particular, but not exclusively, the following main points:

Land(scape), Agriculture
Since the development of effective crop rotation systems and especially since the introduction of chemical fertilizers, intense debate has persisted on the extent to which the agrarian practice of leaving land uncultivated is either an anachronism or a valuable agricultural tactic. A land-oriented history of knowledge (Frank Uekötter) can be reconstructed across these controversies. Land can be imagined in completely divergent ways: as a dead location, as an “alembic” to which artificial nutrients have to be added, or as a living theater where complex processes play out. Clément as well emphasizes the processual nature and openness of fallow land, when he calls it in his manifesto a site of “Lamarckian transformations” that enables living beings to seek new modes of existence – not lastly because of its own proper temporal dimension. What lies latent in the fallows?

Fallows allow us to reconstruct both cultural people-land relationships and societal models. From that perspective, one might inquire into the meaning of the Sabbath year in the Torah's agricultural laws, as well as its carry-over in the contemporary practice of the sabbatical. Specific conceptual models have their origins in the fallows. They serve as paradigms for a “non-interventionalist mentality”, where non-planning is recognized as a “vital principle” and biological growth takes precedence over economic growth (Gilles Clément).

Fallows cannot be conceived in the absence of transitions and limits. Which practices of and ideas for drawing boundaries, which cultivations of transitions are active here? Which of these shape our image of a landscape?

What connections between agriculture and landscape become thinkable when viewed in light of the fallows? What environmental-historical, landscape-theoretical and landscape-aesthetic implications and problematizations of the phenomenon of the “uncultivated” become visible?

Can we write an art and image history of the fallows? And what are the resulting image-theoretical consequences, if we consider not only planned landscaping, but also the fallows? How does contemporary art confront and intervene within “third landscapes”? What conflation of nature and culture can be experienced in Robert Smithson's earth works and Pierre Huyghe's “Untilled” (Julian Rebentisch)? And which cinematic and/or literary poetics of wastelands, zones and liminal spaces can be sketched out?

City Fallows, Urban Wastelands
As ruptures in the cityscape, urban wastelands hint at the historical layers of a place. Urban wastelands mirror former and current usages, and history can be archaeologically decoded inside and based on those sites. By contrast, a static, de-temporalized “ahistorical untime” (Burkhard Schäfer) reigns at these “unplaces”. Whereas “ruins” constitute a “cultural figure” that has been treated in various disciplines (Aleida Assmann), a figure on the basis of which both historical thinking and an “archaeology of knowledge” can be developed, so far little light has been shed on the question of an archaeology of a landscape that has basically gone to ruin and its meaning as a point of departure for historical thinking.

The same applies to urban wastelands such that they constitute a very common object of examination for case studies in fields like urban ecology, urban planning and politics. This begs the question of the signification-generating effect of urban wastelands in their function as hybrid or third space. What power structures do these follow? How are wastelands in megacities such as São Paulo, Karachi, Shanghai and Mumbai occupied and what different strategies exist for dealing with those spaces? In conjunction with that, the entangled histories of the social value or of the change in societal and culture-specific perceptions of wastelands can be also reconstructed. Up to now, the cultural-historical and aesthetic strategies of reinterpretation and the change in meaning that occur inside and based on wastelands have been rarely examined (Susanne Hauser).

The 19th century terrains vagues that formed on the peripheries of metropolises aren't only reflected in the literature of Balzac and Nerval (Wolfram Nitsch, Daniel Ritter), the overgrown or bombed-out lot serves as a poetic figure of reflection in both magical realism and Trümmerliteratur (“rubble literature”) (Burkhard Schäfer), and wastelands are one of the archetypal settings in, for instance, French crime film (Jacqueline Broich). In that context, we might ask what aesthetic confrontations with and reflections on urban wastelands and other city fallows take place?

Global Fallows
Historically, the connection between the potentiality of the fallows and questions of global space has been drawn in various ways. From John Locke, who was able to justify the colonialization of the Americas with an argument founded on land lying fallow and non-use of land, all the way to Clément, whom the fallows furnish with a model of an emergent global landscape, fallow land appears not to have lost a shred of actuality. The conflicts that play out on that land, as well, have in no way grown fewer. Based on his research on tribal and state perspectives on Imperata grass in Indonesia Helmut Lukas clarified the various political and ontological implications of fallows in colonial and post-colonial contexts from an environmental-anthropological perspective. But in the course of efforts at environmental protection that are intensifying worldwide and institutionalizing the fallows against overuse of resources, diverse conflicts with local uses and views are crystallizing, and they are positioned to relativize and problematize a global and universal concept of the fallows.

ilinx 5 is seeking the economical, ecological and ontological, entangled histories, that can be written in relation to global fallows and fallow landscapes. What changes and transformations does the concept of the fallows and fallow land undergo in the context of its globalization? What scope can that concept claim, if we consider its agricultural premises, as well as its specific perspective on non-anthropogenic spaces? But on the flip side – with an eye perhaps to other “in-between spaces”, like the Japanese satoyama qua space “between mountain and city” – we might ask what correspondences, concepts, or even counter-concepts and levelings of the fallows are to be found in other cultures, even in other ontologies.

Journal / Procedure
For the 5th thematic issue of the journal ilinx – Berliner Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft (Berlin Contributions to Cultural Studies), we are looking for pieces that cultivate the field of fallows. As in the first issues, the name (ilinx, Gr. = vortex, whirlpool) stands for an aspiration to allow different currents, theories and materials to bounce off one another. There are two modes of contribution:

  1. Academic papers in German or English, ranging from 30,000-35,000 characters (approx. 15 printed pages). These texts are submitted to an anonymous peer review process and will be made accessible on the ilinx website one year after the publication is released.
  2. Shorter keyword entries, essayistic observations, artistic contributions, interviews of max. 15,000 characters (approx 7-8 printed pages).


ilinx – Berliner Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft is published in cooperation with the Institut für Kulturwissenschaft (Institute of Cultural History and Theory) at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Editors for this issue: Katja Kynast, Birgit Lettmann and Stephan Zandt. The editors welcome one-page abstracts no later than 23.05.2016, addressed to The deadline for subsequently confirmed, completed contributions is 31.08.2016

Source: H-Soz-Kult